Human Rights Watch

World Report 2013

Armenia

Armenia's ruling coalition retained a parliamentary majority following
the May 2012 elections amid allegations of abuse of administrative
resources, and intimidation of voters, observers, and
journalists. Ill-treatment in police custody persists. The government
has yet to offer conscientious objectors a genuine civilian
alternative to military service and has failed to effectively
investigate a troubling number of non-combat deaths in the military.

Politically motivated defamation lawsuits no longer appear to be a
problem, but media pluralism is lacking, and some journalists
coveringthe May 6 parliamentary elections suffered violent attacks by
onlookers, some of them members of Armenia's ruling political
party. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation are
serious problems. Bureaucratic restrictions prevent people with
terminal illnesses from accessing strong pain medications.
Parliamentary Elections

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE)
monitoring report assessed the May 6 parliamentary elections as
competitive and largely peaceful, yet marred by`an unequal playing
field' due to misuse of administrative resources, and party
representatives and local authorities pressuring voters, interfering
in voting, and hindering the work of journalists.

Several violent incidents occurred during the campaign period in
Yerevan, including assaults on opposition party Armenian National
Congress (ANC) candidate Babken Garoyan and three other ANC members on
April 15, and on ANC candidate Karen Tovmasyan on April 17. In both
cases, the ANC members were distributing campaign information. Police
opened investigations into each case.

Helsinki Association campaign monitor Arman Veziryan filed complaints
alleging that Yerevan resident Tigran Manukyan punched him and
hindered his work as an observer while Veziryan observed an opposition
activist distributing election pamphlets on April 30. Instead of
investigating, prosecutors pressured Veziryan to withdraw the
complaint and in June charged him with beating Manukyan, although
Manukyan never claimed to be a victim. Veziryan was awaiting trial at
this writing.

Torture and Ill-Treatment in Custody

According to local human rights defenders, torture and ill-treatment
in police custody persist. Authorities often refuse to investigate
ill-treatment allegations or coerce citizens into retracting
complaints. The October report of the European Committee for the
Prevention of Torture (CPT) on a follow-up visit in December 2011
noted overcrowding, unhygienic conditions, and inadequate medical care
in two prison facilities. CPT also noted that it received no new cases
of ill-treatment from these facilities in 2012.

The government has not effectively investigated a complaint from seven
ANC activists that police beat them in detention in August 2011. The
activists' lawyers also filed a complaints alleging police denied them
access to their clients, refused their request for a medical
examination for the activists, and briefly detained the lawyers for
seven hours. The activists testified about the abuse during trial, but
a Yerevan court did not request an investigation.

In July, the court sentenced four of the activists-Karapetyan, Tigran
Arakelyan, Sargis Gevorgyan, and David Kiramijyan=80'to two to six
years' imprisonment for hooliganism and resisting authority. In
November, the appeals court upheld their sentences. In August, police
dropped charges against the other three for lack of evidence.

In October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)ruled that
Armenia had violated the prohibition against inhuman or degrading
treatment in the case of opposition party member Grisha Virabyan when
police repeatedly hit him in the testicles with metal objects after
detaining him following demonstrations in 2004. The court denounced
the authorities' failure to effectively investigate. Army Abuses

Local human rights groups reported 44 non-combat army deaths through
November. On February 29, conscript Tigran Varyan was killed by a
gunshot wound. The government-mandated autopsy revealed that Varyan
was subject to violence, but investigators classified his death as
suicide. A report by local human rights groups noted the Defense
Ministry's failure to initiate investigations promptly, to account for
signs of violence in cases of alleged suicides, and to disclose the
circumstances of many deaths.

A January ECtHR ruling found Armenia had violated the right to
religious freedom of two Jehovah's Witnesses by imprisoning them for
refusing to perform mandatory military service in 2003.

According to Forum 18, an international religious freedom
nongovernmental organization, 32 conscientious objectors were in
prison as of September 20 for refusing military and alternative
service, believing the alternative service was not independent of the
military. In 2012, courts sentenced to prison terms 16 additional
Jehovah's Witnesses for refusal to serve. The sentences were not
enforced.

In 2011, authorities proposed amendments to the alternative service
law. However, the OSCE and the Council of Europe (CoE) criticized the
amendments for not making alternative service truly independent of the
military and for making it 12-18 months longer than military
service. In its July review of Armenia, the United Nations Human
Rights Committee (HRC) urged the government to ensure a real
alternative to military service, and release those imprisoned for
refusing to perform military service or the existing alternative to
it.

Freedom of Expression

Politically motivated defamation lawsuits no longer appear to be a
serious problem.However, a June 2012 Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe (PACE) report on media freedom in Europe found
Armenian journalists' capacity to report was `hampered by pressures of
self-censorship' and expressed concern about television stations' use
of material from political advertisements in news coverage.

At least two journalists suffered attacks while covering the May
elections. In Yerevan, a man punched Elina Chilingaryan as she filmed
a bus arriving at a polling station,knocking her camera to the
ground. Police brought charges against the assailant for interfering
with the professional duties of a journalist. They later dropped the
charges, claiming that Chilingaryan was not performing her
professional duties at the time of the attack since she was not
wearing her press badge. The authorities did not bring separate
assault charges.

In Gyumri, four unidentified men approached journalist Karen Alekyan
at a polling station, ripped off his press badge, and broke his
camera. Alekyan filed a complaint. The investigation was ongoing at
this writing.

Palliative Care

Armenia's complicated and time-consuming prescription and procurement
procedures for opioid medications obstruct the delivery of adequate
palliative care. UNstatistics from 2009-2010 suggest that
approximately 7,000 people die annually in Armenia from cancer and
HIV/AIDS.However, analysis of strong pain medicine consumption
suggests only about 600 patients with moderate to severe pain gained
access in 2012 to adequate pain relief during the last stages of their
illness.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In July, the NGO Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK)
Armenia reported that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)
people experience employment discrimination, obstacles accessing
healthcare, and physical and psychological abuse in the army, in
families, and in public.

On May 8, unidentified people threw a homemade bomb at DIY, a Yerevan
bar frequented by LGBT and women's rights activists. Graffiti
identified LGBT people as targets. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Eduard
Sharmazanov called the attack =80=9Cright and justified.' Police
arrested two suspects who were released pending trial. Unidentified
attackers destroyed bar property and made death threats against its
owners in three subsequent May incidents. Police were called during
each attack but intervened only once.

On May 21 in Yerevan, a group of people threatened violence and
shouted homophobic slogans at participants in a march organized by
PINK Armenia and the Women's Resource Center Armenia to celebrate
diversity. Human Rights Defenders

In April, about 200 people gathered outside the human rights
nongovernmental Helsinki Citizens' Assembly's (HCA) Vanadzor office,
throwing eggs and stones, breaking windows, and threatening staff with
further violence if films made by Azerbaijani filmmakers were screened
as planned. The group dispersed after HCA leaders agreed to cancel the
films. As the crowed assembled HCA staff called the police, who failed
to intervene.

In April, a court rejected a lawsuit by Lernapat Mayor Vano
Yeghiazaryan against Artur Sakunts, head of HCA Vanadzor. In a 2011
newspaper interview Sakunts accused Yeghiazaryan of embezzlement and
abuse of power. The court concluded that Yeghiazaryan, as a public
official, `must be more tolerant towards opinions and publications
relating to him.'

Key International Actors

In its May European Neighborhood Policy Progress Report, the European
Commission urged Armenia to address corruption, media freedom, low
public trust in the judiciary, and inadequate investigation of
ill-treatment. It commended the government for strengthening laws on
gender equality and health care.

European Union foreign ministers' conclusions on the South Caucasus
adopted in February at the Foreign Affairs council in Brussels
highlighted the importance of free and fair elections and further
judiciary reforms, political pluralism, freedom of and equal access to
media, and protection of human rights defenders.

In his July visit to Yerevan, EU President Herman Van Rompuy welcomed
Armenian authorities' efforts to deliver more competitive and
transparent parliamentary elections, but cautioned that February 2013
presidential elections should be more democratic.

Following its July review of Armenia's compliance with the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the HRC
highlighted a host of concerns, including lack of comprehensive
antidiscrimination legislation, violence against racial and religious
minorities and LGBT people, discrimination and violence against women,
lack of accountability for torture, and threats and attacks against
rights defenders.

In May, the UN Office in Armenia condemned violence and intolerance
based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The EU Delegation to
Armenia and the CoE's European Commission against Racism and
Intolerance expressed concern over Armenia's inadequate response to
anti-LGBT hate speech and violence.

In a new strategy for Armenia adopted in May, the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development stressed the need for `further steps'
such as police and judiciary reform and facilitating media pluralism.




From: A. Papazian