Suspicion of citizen action pervades the authorities’ approach to civil society in Armenia.read more
To mark the 100th day since Pashinyan’s election, citizens took to the streets on August 17.
On 17th August 2018, thousands of citizens took to the streets to celebrate the 100th day of Nikol Pashinian's election as prime minister. In what the prime minister called a “demonstration of national unity”, thousands of his supporters rallied in Yeveran’s Republic Square. During the rally, Pashinian spoke to the crowd, saying:
“This is going to be a demonstration of national unity, because there are no dividing lines today — the police, the National Security Service, the public, the people, the army, the armed forces, the state government bodies, the government are all on the same side, and no line divides us today.”
Pashinian was elected prime minister by the National Assembly on 8th May 2018 after massive protests took place in the country with citizens frustrated by high levels of corruption and the socio-economic situation. After 100 days in office, Pashinian has implemented several reforms, most of which relate to the fight against corruption, the reform of judicial and security institutions as well as economic reforms. In another positive step, the government opened investigations into the March 2008 protests where several protesters were killed during clashes with security officers.
On 7th August 2018, the Non-Discrimination and Equality Coalition released a statement condemning “the outbreak of extreme intolerance, hatred and violence in the village of Shurnukh in the Syunik region”.
On 3rd August 2018, around 30 people in the village of Shurnukh attacked nine LGBTI activists. It was reported that the attackers were using stones and several activists were injured, two of whom required hospitalisation.
In the statement, the Coalition stated that the responsibility for this violence should be shared both by the villagers and the police officers, who had encouraged hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, due to their “inactivity and lack of respect for universal values”.
This is not the first case of violence against LGBTI activists: in April 2017, two people suffered injuries in the Goris community. Amnesty International issued a statement saying that impunity for hate crimes against the LGBTI community exacerbates the violence. Amnesty International said:
“Authorities in Armenia have generally failed to respond to discrimination and violence perpetrated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and in some cases, have even condoned such attacks.”
The Non-Discrimination and Equality Coalition calls for:
“[A] proper, fair and impartial investigation of the case by the RA Police and for the Armenian government to take action in order to eliminate all forms of hate crimes and discrimination within the country, both by means of legislative reform and regulation.”
In addition, over 100 Armenian organisations issued a public letter to relevant institutions, calling on them to “condemn the recent attacks against Armenian LGBT activists and to promote legislative and policy changes to grant equality and end discrimination against LGBT persons in Armenia”.
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.