Suspicion of citizen action pervades the authorities’ approach to civil society in Armenia.read more
For five days now, the Armenian political opposition has mobilised on the streets of Yerevan and in other cities across the country to protest Serzh Sargsyan's candidacy for prime minister.
For five days now, the Armenian political opposition has mobilised on the streets of Yerevan and in other cities across the country to protest Serzh Sargsyan's candidacy for prime minister, which was confirmed by the parliament on 17th April. The news was followed by fresh clashes between protestors and police on the streets of Yerevan.
Opposition leaders have condemned the move as a "power grab", as shortly after the March 2018 presidential election, former president Serzh Sargsyan confirmed his intentions to run for post of prime minister. There is discontent among the opposition in how domestic and foreign affairs have been run under his tenure. Concerns over a power grab stem from 2015 constitutional reforms which changed the procedure for electing the prime minister and also granted greater powers to that office. The April 2017 parliamentary elections secured a victory for Sargsyan's Republican Party, paving the way for his continuation in power.
News portal CivilnetAm reported that opposition leader and Member of Parliament Nikol Pashinyan encouraged people to continue their protests until 17th April, when the National Assembly elects the the new prime minister. Several civic groups and students have also joined the protest and the numbers of people have swelled to the thousands, the protest growing in size each day.
The protests in Armenia are turning into one of the biggest crises yet in Serzh Sargsyan's ten years in power https://t.co/wrHug8AGI5— Eurasianet (@EurasiaNet) April 17, 2018
On 16th April, the protests reached a boiling point when police and protesters clashed. Demonstrators faced tear gas and other acts of aggression from security forces. Approximately 50 people needed medical treatment, including six police officers. According to media sources, protest leader Nicol Pashinyan was injured and needed medical care but he remained undeterred, later returning to the protest. The main part of the protest has taken place in France Square, but at the time of writing, demonstrators had closed off nearly all major streets in the center of Yerevan and temporarily shut down traffic on some bridges, including Victory Bridge which leads to Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport.
#rejectSerzh— CivilNet.AM (@CivilNetTV) April 17, 2018
5th day of demonstrations in #Armenia’s capital of #Yerevan where protesters are demanding that former President Serzh Sargsyan step down & not become the country’s next Prime Minister.#Армения pic.twitter.com/3ydSIAxYC4
The CIVICUS Monitor and its research partner will continue to monitor the situation to document any violations of the right to peaceful assembly as the protests enter their fifth day, and especially as the situation remains uncertain and potentially volatile with Sargsyan's position secured as PM in today's election in the National Assembly.
If you are in Yerevan, please have your say about these events by sharing information with us through the form at the end of this article.
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.