NHC urges Armenia to investigate attacks on LGBTI activists
Today the Norwegian Helsinki Committee sent a letter to Republic of Armenia General Prosecutor and Head of Investigative Committee to express our concern about the recent developments that endanger non-discrimination principle and protection of human rights in Armenia.
- We ask that Armenian authorities and the General Prosecutor’s Office take immediate action to address the difficult situation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons (LGBTI), says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
The backdrop for this letter is two recent cases of threats and attacks on LGBTI activists, for which there has not been taken adequate legal action.
The first case concerned threats and hate speech following the first Armenian LGBTI forum that was held by the LGBT organization PINK Armenia on 17-18 October 2015. A photo and article from the forum was published at Pinks website, and the people who in the photograph have been attacked both in social media and elsewhere. "Burn all without exception", "I should bomb them all in one room", "there are people who want to burn you, do not make me reveal your location", "I will turn you into a girl in one night. I already have such practice" were published online and in some cases sent directly to specific persons.
The police declined to initiate a criminal case, as they claim that there were no direct and realistic threat to specific persons, which is a required by Armenian legislation. This is a too common reason used by Armenian law enforcement bodies in the absence of adequate legislation pertaining to discrimination and hate speech.
The second case is the attack on four LGBTI activists in Yerevan 15 February. After being beaten, the victims were met with laughter and spite when seeking medical attention, and the police has not investigated the case properly.
- Such lack of response by the authorities may give an impression that there is a climate of impunity for hate motivated speech and crimes, which makes it more likely that people will act on their threats, says Engesland - The attack on 15 February is a clear example that there are people willing to use violence to promote their homophobic and transphobic stands.
ILGA Europe (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) ranked Armenia as the third worst country in Europe, only preceded by Azerbaijan and Russia. Among their main concerns were that «Hostility and discrimination against LGBTI people remained widespread. A court ruled in favor of a newspaper which published a “black list of gay lobbyists” featuring LGBTI people and human rights defenders’ contact details, and ordered LGBTI activists to pay legal fees and damages to its editor. Hate speech and violence were still pervasive, while the police and the judiciary systematically added to the predicament of victims and prisoners». They also noted that NGOs reported several cases where police officers mocked or harassed hate crime victims seeking help, and that discriminatory statements and hate speech from politicians are frequent.
Also the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, The EU Eastern Partnership reports, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Armenia Office have on several occasions issued similar reports about the situation for LGBTI persons in Armenia.
NHC is also concerned about reports that gay men serving in the army are sent home due to discovery of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The grounds for their dismissal are frequently disclosed to family members and others, subsequently putting them in immediate danger of sanctions upon their return. In several cases have such individuals had to leave their homes and seek protection from Armenian LGBTI organizations.
We urge the Armenian authorities to:
- assure that threats and hate speech do not translate into physical violence against LGBTI people and their allies,
- implement RA international obligations related to human rights of LGBTI people,
- uphold RA commitments to tolerance and non-discrimination and
- address intolerance and hatred towards the LGBTI population,
- develop legislation that adequately addresses discrimination and hate speech.