Civil society concerned over proposed changes to anti-terrorism law


Armenian Ombudsman opposes Yerevan City Council's closed-door sessions

A proposal by Yerevan City Council to organise their meetings as closed-door sessions would prevent journalists from observing and reporting on them. In response, the Armenian Ombudsman declared the proposal unacceptable and expressed concern that it was an attempt to sideline the media.   

Armenian activists against criminalisation of public criticism

Armenian civil society is concerned over proposed new amendments to anti terrorism legislation, fearing that a draft of the new Criminal Code could be used to criminalise criticism of state institutions. Radio Free Europe reported that violators could potentially face three-year prison term for publicly justifying, promoting or financing perceived domestic or international "crimes of terrorism". Artur Sakunts, head of the Vanadzor-based Helsinki Citizens Assembly, is worried that the authorities could use the new amendments to penalise and marginalise political opponents. As quoted by Radio Free Europe, Sakunts stated in defense of free speech that:

"Even the most extreme and offensive speech against a [government] official cannot serve as grounds for prosecution, because it is protected -- it is public opinion".
Continued EU support of Armenian civil society

The European Union (EU) will continue to support civil society projects in Armenia, specifically five projects over the next two years. The projects aim to promote democratic governance and human rights by organising public debates across the country that will serve as a basis for policy recommendations to politicians and government institutions. Another specific objective is to encourage civil society organisations to serve as watchdogs over public institutions and policy making. The EU support for Armenian civil society is part of the Comprehensive & Enhanced Partnership Agreement between the European Union & Armenia (CEPA), which was signed on 25th November 2017 and will be ratified in April 2018. Strengthening democracy and human rights protection is a key priority of CEPA which also includes a new regulatory framework for bilateral relations between Armenia and EU, including the creation of an independent Civil Society Platform composed of Armenian and EU organisations. The Platform will monitor the implementation of CEPA and propose recommendations for EU-Armenian relations and cooperation. 

Peaceful Assembly

Opposition rally in Yerevan

On 10th March 2018, Radio Free Europe reported an opposition-led protest in Yerevan, Armenia's capital. Supporters of the newly-created Front for the State of Armenia gathered in Liberty Square calling for the creation of a provisional government and for the release of political prisoners. The protest took place after the 2nd March 2018 presidential election during which the Armenian National Assembly voted 90 to 10 to elect Armen Sarkissian as the country’s next President. 

In December 2015, a constitutional referendum changed Armenia's government to a parliamentary republic, whereby the National Assembly elects the president for a seven year term. The current or outgoing president can also be elected as Prime Minister, thus maintaining his or her influence over decisions and politics in the country. 

Tags: protest