Suspicion of citizen action pervades the authorities’ approach to civil society in Armenia.read more
On 19th March 2019, it was reported that a dozen Armenian activists organised a protest in front of the Iran Embassy in Yerevan.
After the velvet revolution in Armenia in spring 2018, and the parliamentary elections in December 2018, the EU continues to support Armenian civil society initiatives. According to a press release issued by the European External Action Service, the EU will support for a period of 30 months a project that aims to ”address communities’ capacity gaps and foster local development in a sustainable, participatory, and accountable manner”. This project targets 52 consolidated communities and is intended to contribute to the strengthening of the cross-border cooperation between Armenian and Georgian communities, create opportunities to promote outdoor activities and local tourism development and also raise awareness on civic engagement.
In addition to this, 3 large-scale projects will be launched in Lori, Tavush and Shirak ‘marzes’ (regions). All these projects aim to unlock the development potential in rural regions.
Armenians protest to support an Iranian human rights defender
On 19th March 2019, it was reported that a dozen Armenian activists organised a protest in front of the Iran Embassy in Yerevan. The protesters called for the release of the Iranian human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was sentenced to 38 years imprisonment and 148 lashes on 11th March in what has been criticised by human rights organisations as an unfair trial. Nasrin was sentenced on charges of criticising the judiciary and providing legal representation to women who had been charged for removing their hijabs in public.
11 years after the bloody protest in Armenia
On 1st March 2019, citizens held a rally to commemorate the victims of the tragic March 2008 protests against the presidential election results, where eight protestors and two law enforcement officers lost their lives in Yerevan. Serj Sargsyan, who won the disputed 2008 general elections, lost his seat only after the velvet Armenian revolution of 2018. Robert Kocharian, the former president, is currently under arrest, being charged with illegally ordering security forces to use force against opposition supporters in 2008.
Nikol Pashinyan, the Prime Minister of the country, participated in this year’s commemoration rally.
Following the ongoing political changes in Armenia, the Freedom of Information Center continues to monitor the right to access public information. In this regard, on 20th February 2019, the Freedom of Information Center reported through a press release that they had sent electronic requests to 21 public bodies. The Center requested that the public bodies provide a list of the documents held by them, declassified in 2018. All bodies replied to their request within the time frames defined by law. Five public institutions reported that they had no documents declassified in 2018 while the other 16 stated that no documents declassified in 2018 related to their activity.
The Center added that only the Ministry of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources provided a complete response following the official request.
Despite the presence of 5,200 civil society organisations registered with the Ministry of Justice, the laws governing the creation and operation of CSOs are cumbersome and result in an overly regulated environment for civil society.
Despite the presence of 5,200 civil society organisations registered with the Ministry of Justice, the laws governing the creation and operation of CSOs are cumbersome and result in an overly regulated environment for civil society. Studies estimate that only 15 – 20% of registered CSOs are active and there is growing concern over the prevalence of government-driven corruption in the sector. Unregistered CSOs do not enjoy the same levels of legal protection and are unable to process financial transactions to support their activities. Moreover, the Law on Public Organisations and Law on Foundations (2001) prevent unregistered entities from sharing information about their activities or working with international civil society groups.
The Armenian government has a well-documented record of interfering with protests and public gatherings.
The Armenian government has a well-documented record of interfering with protests and public gatherings. Protests during the “electric Yerevan” movement resulted in over 200 arrests and reports of violence by police. Armenian human rights groups have highlighted the misuse of the penal code to intimidate protesters and prevent protests deemed unfavourable by the government. In particular, pro-democracy protests have borne the brunt of politically motivated arrests, detentions and torture.
Armenia’s media and news houses are not formally regulated, but informal influence by the government impedes journalistic freedom.
Armenia’s media and news houses are not formally regulated, but informal influence by the government impedes journalistic freedom. Journalists covering protests and gatherings are particular targets of violence and intimidation. In 2015, there were 19 documented cases of violence against journalists, with no one held responsible. With 46% of the Armenian population having access to the internet, online news outlets have begun to flourish. For the most part, bloggers and online journalists are able to operate free from coercion or fear of reprisals. Discrimination against LGBTI communities remains a serious concern in Armenia, with inadequate anti-discrimination laws and frequent reports of hate speech.