Residents protest mine exploration

Association

New analysis highlights challenges faced by civil society

In November 2019, New Eastern Europe, an analytical magazine from Poland, published an article highlighting the difficulties that civil society organisations in the country have been facing since the revolution in Armenia. Despite the considerable improvements in the political environment, the article notes a number of issues of a political nature which pose challenges to the freedom of association in the country. These include external propaganda, usually of Russian origin, as well as the association of civil society or NGOs with entities that promote foreign interests.

Peaceful Assembly

Residents sustain protests against Amulsar mine exploration

In December 2019, residents of Jermuk, a small Armenian town, blocked the road to the Amulsar mine and vowed not to open it until the government takes the necessary action to protect the environment. More opponents of the development of the Amulsar mine near Jermuk also said they would not open the road.

According to the Caucasian Knot, the protests against the mine began back in 2014. In February 2019, the Armenian government allocated almost 400,000 US dollars to facilitate a study on the environmental risks posed by the project. The international expert group considered environmental risks to be minimal, a finding which provoked protests by the residents of the city of Jermuk, located ten kilometres from the field. The residents believe that gold mining will turn a resort town into a mining town.

On 20th September 2019, opponents of the mine marched in Jermuk and surrounding communities, threatening a new wave of protests if the Armenian government did not announce a final decision on the issue of gold mining at Amulsar. On 17th November 2019, the Lydian Armenia mining company, which is the main developer of the Amulsar natural resources, demanded that the authorities lift the ban on the use of the Darb and Arpa rivers for gold mining. At a meeting held on 15th December 2019 by the residents of Jermuk, the participants unanimously voted against the opening of roads to the Amulsar mine. They vowed to continue the protest.

Former president’s supporters protest outside detention centre

On 1stJanuary 2020, supporters offormer Armenian President, Robert Kocharyan held protests outside the pre-trial prison where he is being held in detention. The supporters were seen holding banners and chanting slogans of support as they opened champagne bottles and called on the current government to turn 2020 into the year of freedom of expression. As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, Kocharyan was brought to court in 2019 to answer to charges of financial fraud as well as human rights violations after a protest that was held in 2008 left at least ten people dead.

Expression

Authorities propose amendment to access to information laws without public consultations

In December 2019, Armenian authorities proposed new amendments to the legal framework regulating access to information. The new law was proposed by the Ministry of Environment. However, according to a press release by the Freedom of Information Centre of Armenia, public consultations were not undertaken, prompting several CSOs in the field of freedom of information to sign a joint statement urging the authorities to facilitate the public convenings. In the statement, the Armenian NGOs also urge the Armenian Ministry of Environment to -

“...immediately abandon this initiative, take a responsible and systematic approach to the process of amending the FOI law, and consult with community-based NGOs and experts in the field before proposing any changes. Creating draft laws without open and transparent discussions, guiding individual parties appropriately, undermines CSO-state cooperation mechanisms and weakens public confidence in the state.”

The Statement was signed by more than 15 Armenian CSOs.