NHC invites President Sargsyan to discuss civil society recommendations
In an open letter to Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan sent today, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee highlights recommendations from the recent report on civic activism in Armenia and offers to discuss them in a meeting with the President in Yerevan later in June. The report examines developments within the Armenian civil society since the disputed presidential elections in 2008, and points to several issues that need to be addressed in order to counter the lack of trust in the Armenian society today.
-Although Armenia has received much praise for its legislative reforms regarding elections and judicial systems, much work remains and the most significant challenge is the large level of public distrust towards state institutions, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – If Armenia wants to recover from the economic quagmire after the world economic crisis, it is crucial that the authorities adequately address a range of issues, including core human rights challenges from torture to discrimination, take immediate and concrete steps to combat corruption at all levels of society, and investigate and adequately explain the circumstances surrounding the 27 October 1999 parliament shootings and the 10 deaths following the 1 March 2008 unrest after the elections.
The legislative reforms have taken place in the framework of negotiations with the European Union (EU) on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) over the last years. However, instead of signing a first agreement in November 2013, President Sargsyan surprised all by signing an initial agreement with the Russia-led Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus. Although he did not sign the formal agreement in Astana on 2 June, he repeated his intent to do so by 15 June.
Common for both processes is the lack of public debate allowing alternative voices to discuss the potential benefits and disadvantages for Armenia, and the citizens need to be convinced they can trust the authorities to make the right decision on their behalf. The NHC report introduces a range of recommendations in this regard and we hope to be able to discuss them in a meeting with the President later in June.