CYCLE OF REPRESSION: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN ARMENIA

Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper

May 4, 2004

Summary
Background: 2003 Presidential Election
Prelude to April 12-13
Restrictions on Travel to Yerevan
The April 12-13 Events
Excessive Force
Raids of Party Headquarters
Detentions: Due Process Violations and Torture
Torture and ill-treatment in police custody
Freedom of the Press
International Response
Recommendations


Summary

At the end of March 2004, Armenia's political opposition united in mass
peaceful protests to force a "referendum of confidence" in President Robert
Kocharian and to call for his resignation. In response, the Armenian
government embarked on a campaign to break the popular support for the
political opposition with mass arrests, violent dispersal of demonstrations,
raids on political party headquarters, repression of journalists, and
restrictions on travel to prevent people from participating in
demonstrations. Hundreds of people were detained, many for up to fifteen
days; some were tortured or ill-treated in custody. Excessive police force,
particularly at an opposition rally on April 12, caused dozens of injuries
among demonstrators. Some of the worst injuries were caused by stun
grenades, which inflicted deep wounds in many protesters. At the same rally,
police beat journalists and confiscated their cameras.

The origin of the opposition's demands was the government's failure to date
to redress the deeply flawed 2003 presidential election, which Kocharian,
the incumbent, won. Disturbingly, the government is now repeating, with
increasing violence, a pattern of repression that surrounded last year's
election. At that time, the international community warned the Armenian
government that its intimidation of the opposition through the use of
arrests and administrative detentions must stop.1 However, in March and
April 2004, the Armenian government not only began a fresh campaign of
detentions, but added to the intimidation with security force violence.

This briefing paper outlines the events of March and April 2004 and details
human rights violations committed by Armenian authorities during this time.
It is based on interviews done by a Human Rights Watch researcher in Yerevan
from April 14-18, 2004. Human Rights Watch calls on the Armenian authorities
to cease intimidating the political opposition, to stop using excessive
force against demonstrators and torture and ill treatment in custody, and to
hold accountable those responsible for these abuses. We call on the
international community to assist the government of Armenia in urgently
addressing this situation and to ensure that further acts of repression are
not repeated.


Background: 2003 Presidential Election2

The antecedents to the events of the past month are to be found in the 2003
presidential election. In the lead-up to the first round of voting, which
took place on February 19, 2003, more than 250 opposition activists,
supporters, and election observers were temporarily detained, many of them
taken to court and summarily sentenced to up to fifteen days administrative
detention for petty offences.3 At the time Human Rights Watch said the
detentions were "an obvious attempt to intimidate and disable the opposition
before the run-off," which was held on March 5, 2003.

The election itself did not meet international standards and was marred by
"serious irregularities, including widespread ballot box stuffing."4
Although the government set up a working group to study the election
violations, it issued a report in March 2003, "essentially dismissing all
the facts and conclusions registered by the EOM [Election Observation
Mission]."5

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] attributed
the election's failure to meet international standards to "a lack of
sufficient political determination by the authorities to ensure a fair and
honest process."6 It concluded that "[r]estoring confidence in the election
process will require prompt and vigorous action by the authorities, includin
g a clear assumption of responsibility and holding accountable those who
violated the law, particularly those in official positions who did so."

Stepan Demirchian, the opposition candidate, filed suit with the
Constitutional Court, challenging the election results.7 On April 16, 2003
the court ruled that the election result should stand, but that the use of
administrative detention in the context of the election harmed Demirchian's
campaign and violated Armenia's obligations under international law.8 The
court recommended that the government hold a referendum of confidence in
President Robert Kocharian within a year.9 The government rejected the
proposal, arguing that it was not within the court's authority to recommend
such action. The opposition, on the other hand, demanded that the government
hold the referendum, or that the president resign from his post.10

The government failed to take the action recommended by the OSCE and the
Constitutional Court.11 As the one-year deadline approached in April 2004,
the opposition grew more vocal in its demands, threatening mass protests if
the government did not hold a referendum or take other action. The
government, however, remained steadfast, refusing to respond to opposition
demands. By the end of March 2004, the opposition stepped up its campaign to
challenge the legitimacy of the president, and began to hold rallies and
demonstrations around the country to express its demands.


Prelude to April 12-13

At the end of March 2004, two of the main opposition groups, the Artarutiun
(Justice) Alliance, which consists of nine parties - including the Republic
Party, the People's Party, and the National Unity Party - joined forces and
announced its campaign of action.12 Following this move, the opposition
intensified its efforts, making further announcements and mobilizing in
Armenia's provinces. The authorities responded by restricting freedom of
movement, carrying out detentions, and threatening criminal charges against
opposition campaign organizers.

On March 28, approximately one thousand opposition supporters rallied in
Giumri, Armenia's second largest city. Pro-government supporters appeared at
the rally and threw eggs at opposition leaders. Scuffles broke out and
police arrested up to fifteen opposition demonstrators, but did not arrest
any of the pro-government supporters. Police charged four of the activists
with hooliganism under article 258 of the criminal code and a court remanded
them in custody for two months pre-trial detention. The others were released
without charge.13

On March 30, the procurator general, or attorney general, opened a criminal
case against the Justice Alliance and its supporters under articles 301
(public calls for seizure of power by force) and 318(2) (publicly insulting
representatives of government) of the criminal code. The procurator general
stated that the charges were related to the recent protests initiated by the
Justice Alliance.14 As a result of opening the criminal case, the
authorities began to summon opposition leaders for questioning as
witnesses.15

On April 5, Artashes Geghamian, the leader of the National Unity Party,
addressed a rally in Yerevan, organized by the party, that drew an estimated
3,000 participants. As he was speaking, about two dozen men pelted him with
eggs. Some fighting broke out between the rally participants and these men.
When journalists present tried to film the clashes, the men attacked the
journalists and smashed their cameras.16 Several hundred police stood by
observing the events, but took no action.17 The Yerevan police chief
reportedly defended the police inaction, stating that the police properly
followed their orders to take action only in "extreme cases."18 Police later
confirmed that following the rally they detained forty-eight opposition
supporters.19

>From April 5, the number of rallies in Yerevan steadily increased, as did
the number of opposition supporters detained or otherwise intimidated. The
Republic Party estimated that from the end of March until April 12, police
had detained, searched, or harassed more than 300 of its supporters.20

Meanwhile, according to the Justice Alliance, on March 22, three unknown
assailants attacked and beat Victor Dallakian, an opposition member of
parliament and secretary of the Justice Alliance, in the street near his
house. On April 3, unknown men beat Aramais Barsegian, a former member of
parliament and head of the Artashat district branch of the People's Party of
Armenia, near his house. The timing of the attacks on both, together with
the lack of any other reasonable explanation for them, led the Justice
Alliance to believe they were politically motivated.21

On March 30 at 9:00 a.m., four unknown men assaulted Mikael Danielian, a
human rights defender, near his house in Yerevan, as he was returning home
from walking his dog. They punched him repeatedly to the head, and kicked
him after he fell to the ground. Danielian was taken to hospital, where he
remained until April 2. Danielian believed that the attack was an act of
retribution for his human rights work and that he was targeted at this time
in order to stop him from monitoring the growing protests of the political
opposition in Armenia and the associated government abuses.22 Although this
is the first reported attack on a human rights defender, journalists
publishing material critical of the government have been the victims of such
attacks.23


Restrictions on Travel to Yerevan

Police stop our activists who are trying to come from the regions in their
cars,arrest them, scare them, and don't allow them to come to Yerevan.24

>From the end of March until mid-April 2004, police restricted the movement
of opposition supporters trying to travel to Yerevan to attend rallies by
setting up road blocks, stopping cars, questioning the passengers, and
denying permission to travel further to those they believed were opposition
supporters.25 These actions breached the right to freedom of movement,
protected under international law.26

On the morning of April 5, between 10:30 a.m. and 12:00 noon, police stopped
nine members of the National Unity Party in three cars at a check point as
they were leaving Vanadzor, Armenia's third largest city, on the main road
to Yerevan. They were intending to participate in a rally at 3:00 p.m. in
Yerevan. Police held the nine men at the Vanadzor police station, reportedly
telling them, "we have saved you from being beaten in Yerevan." Police took
three of the men to the local court, which sentenced them to five days of
administrative detention for not following police orders. The rest were
released at 8:00 p.m. on the same day.27

In early April, the police presence in Vanadzor increased significantly and
members of the National Police force were brought into the city to help the
local police to monitor the roadblocks. Police told a local human rights
defender that the increased police presence was a result of an order on the
"tense situation."28 On April 9, police sent a minivan to the outskirts of
Vanadzor and detained people in it who were traveling to Yerevan whom they
suspected were intending to participate in opposition rallies.29


Excessive Force

In spite of the warnings of government authorities, on April 12, an
estimated 15,000 people marched from Freedom Square along Marshal Baghramian
Avenue towards the presidential residence. Hundreds of riot police and
security forces stopped them near the parliament and the protesters did not
attempt to break through the barrier, but continued the protest at that
place in the street.37

On the night of 12-13 April, the protesters on Marshal Baghramian Avenue set
up camp for the night next to the barbed wire barrier and hundreds of
security forces. According to protesters and observers interviewed by Human
Rights Watch, the demonstration was completely peaceful, with protesters
playing music, dancing, and sleeping.38 The opposition leaders at the
demonstration made several demands to meet with the president, the speaker
of parliament, and the chief of police; the authorities did not respond.39

Shortly after midnight an estimated 3,000 protesters remained in the street
when the street lights went out. Then at about 2:00 a.m., protesters heard
an announcement, telling them to leave the road. Police vehicles with water
cannons then drove up and began spraying large volumes of high-pressure
water on the crowds. According to one observer:

We saw a woman over seventy years old under the jet of water. I went to help
her. I stood in front of her to stop the force of the water... I stood with
my side [to the water], facing the parliament and saw police in uniforms
throwing [stun grenades] from the parliament grounds. One blew up about
twenty centimeters from me. My friend had both eardrums broken. The gas made
my eyes water. I could see the police beating women with batons.40

After about ten minutes of spraying the crowds with high pressure water,
police and other security forces, some in black clothing and others in
camouflage uniforms, began throwing into the crowd stun grenades, which are
small explosives that make a deafening noise.41 Other police beat the
protesters with batons and shocked them with electric prods.

Speaking about the stun grenades, a woman told Human Rights Watch: "They
were very frightening. I became deaf, and couldn't hear anything. I couldn't
see either from the smoke everywhere."42

After this initial security force attack, the protesters responded by
throwing plastic water bottles and sticks from their placards; they
subsequently began to run away. The security forces, however, had by this
stage surrounded the protesters and continued to attack them and then chase
them down the street to where other security force personnel were waiting.43
Protesters, observers and journalists were badly injured and beaten. There
were no reports of injury among the security forces.

Three days after the protest, Vazgen Ghazarian, a twenty-two-year-old
protester, told Human Rights Watch he still could not walk from the injuries
he sustained at the protest that night. Twice a stun grenade thrown by
security forces had detonated not far from him. He had nine significant
wounds to his legs and groin, some more than a centimeter deep. Doctors
removed three small pieces of plastic and one piece of metal from his legs.
One of his eardrums was broken.44

Styopa Safarian, a rights activist attending the rally as an observer,45 was
also injured after several explosives went off next to him. "I lost
consciousness for two or three minutes. When I came to, I saw police
violently beating and using electric shocks on the other protesters."46

Safarian suffered from severe pain to the groin, and his ear, face and legs
were bleeding. He went to the hospital and had his groin area stitched up.
He had open wounds of several centimeters in diameter on his legs, and his
eardrum was broken. There were fourteen other people similarly injured at
the protest in hospital with him.47

Shavarsh Kocharian, an opposition member of parliament, told Human Rights
Watch how masked security force personnel detained and beat him at the
rally:

Then unexpectedly police and special units with batons and electroshock
batons came from the entrance of the parliament. One man in a mask grabbed
me and took me to the parliament grounds. They were beating lots of people
there. I told him I was a member of parliament. He beat me on the shoulders
and face with his baton. He put me in a prisoner transport van where I
waited for two hours... They put a man with terrible head injuries in with
me. They gave him a towel [to soak up the blood], and he waited with me for
two hours.48

At about 4:30 a.m., police took Kocharian and his companion to the Nor-Nork
District Police Precinct and only after this did police seek medical care
for the man with the head injuries. There were others at the police station,
also detained from the protest, with bloody head and ear injuries.

Police held Kocharian at the police station until 7:30 a.m. and then took
him to the Counter Terrorism Department. An investigator came and told him
that he was to be questioned as a witness in relation to an offence of
calling for the overthrow of the government.49 After questioning, Kocharian
was told by the investigator that he was now being held as a defendant in
the case. Kocharian demanded a lawyer, but was not provided with one. Police
searched and fingerprinted him and then placed him in a cell. At about 8:00
p.m. the investigator came to Kocharian and said the charges had been
dropped, and he was released.50

In putting down the rally, Armenian security forces did not abide by the
long-established international norms reflected in the United Nations Basic
Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.51
The Basic Principles provide that "law enforcement officials, in carrying
out their duty, shall as far as possible apply non-violent means before
resorting to the use of force. ... Whenever the lawful use of force ... is
unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall ... exercise restraint in such
use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense."52 The
legitimate objective should be achieved with minimal damage and injury, and
preservation of human life respected.53



Raids of Party Headquarters

That same night, April 12-13, immediately after the attack began on the
protesters in Marshal Baghramian Avenue, security forces stormed the Yerevan
headquarters of the Republic Party, the National Unity Party, and the People
's Party, arrested those present, and closed two of the headquarters for
several days.

According to party members present that night, shortly after 2:00 a.m.
security forces in camouflage uniforms came to the headquarters of the
Republic Party. Although they showed no search warrant or other
documentation, they insisted on coming into the office, against the protests
of the party members. They detained several dozen men present and then left.
A couple of men and a group of more than ten women remained, and began
ringing the press and others to tell them what had happened. The security
forces then returned and banged violently on the door. Those inside refused
to open it. Security force personnel smashed a window and entered the
premises. They were very aggressive, swearing at the party members. They
detained everyone and put them into a prisoner transport van. It was very
overcrowded, and police refused to respond when the occupants called for
help in panic from lack of air. Police did not explain to the detainees the
reason for their arrest.

"Then they took us... to an unknown place. There were people in uniforms,
but it wasn't clear to us who they were. It was some sort of an official
building, and they put us in a cell... Only later we learnt that we were in
the Erebuni Detention Center for administrative detentions."54

The cell was cold, with metal beds and the authorities refused to give the
detainees mattresses or blankets. The authorities held the party members for
between thirty-six and forty-eight hours, never explaining to them their
legal status. Investigators questioned one of the detainees, Artak
Zayanalian, about the protest, stating that he was being questioned as a
witness.55

After detaining everyone from the Republic Party headquarters, police
occupied the premises for more than two days. Party officials were able to
get back into the building only on April 15. Doors, windows, furniture, and
equipment were broken, documents and other things were lying all over the
floors, and computers, documents, videocassettes, and other equipment had
been confiscated.56

The same night security forces raided the headquarters of the National Unity
Party. No one was at the office at the time of the break-in, however, from
the damage to the door, it was clear that the authorities had forced the
door with crowbars or similar tools. They had forced all the internal doors
open, as well as the doors to safes and cupboards, and had confiscated
documents, including the list of party members, video equipment, and
computers. The authorities then closed the office with an official seal from
the Procurator General's Office.57

On October 14, party officials demanded that the Procurator General's Office
remove the seal. After several hours, local government representatives came
and took away the seal and the party officials were able to re-enter the
premises. They reported that documents and other things were scattered
everywhere. They later received a document from the authorities, listing the
things confiscated.58

Between twenty-five and thirty armed police also stormed the headquarters of
the People's Party on the night of April 12-13. They entered the building
shouting, and holding automatic weapons. They began detaining male party
members. A group of women and other party members blockaded themselves in a
room in fear. The police broke down the door with the butts of their guns.

Vardan Mkrtchian, a member of parliament, detained in the raid, told Human
Rights Watch: "The police were shouting and swearing. They hit the women and
young people. They beat my wife who was here to find out why the police had
arrested me [earlier in the day]."59

They detained more than twelve people, including Vardan Mkrtchian, and his
son. The rough treatment continued at the police station after arrest.
Police confiscated documents and videocassettes. They held the party members
from between several hours to three days, taking some to court for
administrative punishments.60

Police also detained Ruzanna Hachatarian, press secretary of the People's
Party, from the party headquarters that night. They took her to a police
station where they questioned her as a witness to the criminal case opened
against the Justice Alliance and its supporters.61

Hachatarian told Human Rights Watch: "The investigator had a printed list of
questions... They asked me 'Why did the Alliance try to overthrow the
government with violence?'... and 'How did you use military measures to
overthrow the government?'... He questioned me for about two hours."62

After questioning her, they informed her that she was no longer a witness,
but was now being charged as a defendant in the case. She demanded a lawyer,
who then attended the police station, and she refused to answer any more
questions. After approximately thirty-six hours in custody, she was taken to
the Procurator General's Office where officials gave her a document stating
that the charges had been withdrawn, and she was released.63



Detentions: Due Process Violations and Torture

It is difficult to estimate the total number of opposition supporters
detained since the beginning of April 2004. By April 17, the Justice
Alliance had documented the detentions of 327 opposition supporters, and the
Republic Party estimated that about 300 of its members had been either
detained, harassed, or searched.64

As of this writing, at least eight opposition supporters are in pre-trial
custody on criminal charges. These include the four people detained in
Giumri on March 28 who are charged with criminal hooliganism and four
detained in April in the case against the Justice Alliance.65 The latter
four are members of the Republic Party: Vargarash Harutunian, on charges of
attempting to overthrow the government, public calls for seizure of power by
force, and publicly insulting representatives of government;66 Zhora Sapean,
a district party leader, on charges of publicly insulting representatives of
government, for allegedly accusing the president and minister of defense of
corruption when speaking at a public rally;67and two others on similar
charges.68

The others were detained and held for from several hours to fifteen days.
Many were held and then released with no documentation or registration of
the arrest ever having occurred. Others were taken to court, and given
penalties of up to fifteen days in custody for petty offences under the
Administrative Code.69

The trials were cursory, flouting all international protections for a fair
trial, and repeating a pattern of abuses with administrative detentions
documented during the 2003 presidential elections. Defendants in
administrative cases were denied access to lawyers, not able to present
evidence, and routinely convicted on the basis of several minutes of police
evidence. Practical barriers to appeal make it virtually impossible to take
the cases to higher courts.70

In the case of the April 5 detention of three people who were attempting to
travel from Vanadzor to Yerevan to attend a rally, a judge refused to allow
them to present evidence in their defense. Police had taken the three - Aram
Revasian, Artur Shahnazarian, and Rezh Makumian - all members of the
National Unity Party, to the local court where they were tried under the
Administrative Code for not following police orders. Revasian requested that
others who were traveling in the car with him be called as witnesses in the
case. The judge refused his request and sentenced all three to five days'
administrative detention on the basis of evidence of one police officer.71

On April 14, the seven people detained at the Republic Party headquarters on
the night of April 12-13 were tried at the Erebuni District Court in Yerevan
for breaching public order under the Administrative Code. The police read
out the charge sheet, the judge asked no questions, and fined the defendants
each 500 drams (approximately U.S. $1). The defendants had been held in
custody for up to thirty-six hours prior to the court hearing, and officials
refused to return their passports until they paid the fines.72

On April 12, police from the Malatia Sebastia police station detained Karen
Shahumian, a member of the People's Party, while he was in a car with loud
speakers, announcing details of the opposition rally to be held later in the
day. At the local court, he was sentenced to five days of administrative
detention. His relatives, concerned for his health since he suffered from
heart problems, requested the assistance of a lawyer to appeal the case. The
lawyer, however, could get no documentation about the case, and could not
meet with Shahumian. The lawyer was not even able to find out the charges
under which Shahumian had been sentenced. It was therefore impossible for
the lawyer to appeal the case.73

Talking about the obstacles faced by lawyers in administrative cases, Tigran
Ter-Esayan told Human Rights Watch: "We try to help, but there are no
documents. We can't appeal without documents. The police deny that [a
defendant] is in their custody, say that he doesn't need a lawyer. They say
that the trial has already happened. We ask for documents and they say
'tomorrow,' 'the day after tomorrow,' and the time has gone."74


Torture and ill-treatment in police custody

Human Rights Watch documented several cases of torture and ill-treatment in
police custody during the government crackdown against the opposition in
April 2004. Opposition party officials claim that during this period police
regularly beat their supporters in police custody: "There were lots of cases
of people being beaten at the police stations after detention, especially
those who came from the regions."75 Armenia is obligated under international
law to prevent acts of torture.76

On the night of April 12-13, Oride Harustanian was detained with a group of
women, including her nineteen-year-old daughter, at the Republic Party
headquarters. Police took them to the Erebuni police station in Yerevan
where the police shouted and swore at them. They were placed in a room.
Harustanian told Human Rights Watch, "Then the head of the Erebuni police
came in. He came up to me and said 'So you want to take power,' and slapped
me three times very hard on the face."77 He then went to each person in turn
and assaulted them, kicking and kneeing them, and punching one woman in the
head. Several of the group had serious bruising to the legs after the
attack. Police did not provide food to the group on the day of April 13.
Members of the group were held for up to thirty-six hours, and were then
released, some receiving administrative fines, others receiving no
explanation as to the reason for having been detained.78

Police also detained a young woman on the night of April 12-13.79 She was
taken to a local police station in Yerevan with a group of opposition party
activists. Police separated her from the group and put her in a room in the
police station. There were four or five uniformed police in the room. She
told Human Rights Watch:

Then someone came in, a high level police officer. All the other police
stood up for him when he came in. I also stood up and he began to beat me,
kicking my body, hitting my face and swearing terribly. I was so scared that
I wet myself. He beat me for about ten or fifteen minutes... I cried the
whole time. I couldn't speak... Then I heard loud voices in the corridor,
shouting and swearing... It was the head of the [police station]. He came in
and said 'Ah, it was you who was at the protest.' I said 'no, it wasn't me.'
He began to beat me with his fists and knees to my stomach. I fell and he
kicked me on my back. He said, 'now all our men will come in and rape you.'
He said worse things... He went on four about twenty minutes. I don't
remember everything. I remember coming to lying on the table. Then he left.
I was on the floor.80

She was released from custody after eighteen hours in detention. She
received no explanation for her arrest. According to the young woman and a
relative who cared for her after her release, she had bruising all over her
body, and was suffering from severe stomach pains.


Freedom of the Press

In breach of Armenia's international obligations to protect freedom of
expression,81 the April 2004 crackdown on the opposition brought with it
repression of journalists and media outlets attempting to report on the
events. Journalists were brutally attacked, and their equipment confiscated
and smashed. In some cases this was done by police, and in others,
apparently by civilians, with the government failing to take action against
those responsible despite clear evidence as to the identity of attackers. In
addition, media outlets were restricted from broadcasting during this
period.

On April 5, men in civilian clothes attacked journalists at an opposition
rally in Yerevan. Initially the men attempted to disrupt the rally by
throwing eggs at the National Unity Party leader, Artashes Geghamian, who
was addressing the crowd. Scuffles broke out, and when journalists attempted
to film events, the men began to attack them.

According to The Committee to Protect Journalists, "[T]he assailants smashed
the video cameras of three Armenian television stations- Kentron, Hay TV and
Public Television- and the still cameras of two opposition dailies - Aravot
and Haykakan Jhamanak."82

The attackers reportedly forced one journalist from the private television
station Shant to hand over his videocassette with footage of the rally.83
Hundreds of police present at the rally observed the attacks, but took no
action. Police officials later defended the police inaction.84 Local and
international press organizations, as well as the OSCE, condemned the
attack, and called for the perpetrators to be punished. Although there was
reportedly evidence available as to the identity of some of the attackers,
at the time of writing the authorities had not made public any action taken
in relation to the attacks.85

On the night of April 12-13, security forces brutally attacked journalists
reporting on the opposition rally and the storming of opposition
headquarters. Media rights groups reported that four journalists were
seriously beaten that night.86 Human Rights Watch documented the attacks on
three of these journalists.87

Levon Grigorian, a cameraman for the Russian television channel ORT,
attended the rally on Marshal Baghramian Avenue on the evening of April 12
in order to report on the rally. According to Grigorian, the rally was
peaceful and quiet. Then at around 2:00 a.m., security force vehicles with
water cannons moved in. He told Human Rights Watch:

I began filming when they started spraying the water on people. People began
throwing things, empty plastic bottles, sticks from flags. The police threw
grenades at people and began to beat them. I filmed. Then people began to
run. I also went with them, filming. I filmed it all. Then four people
surrounded me and tried to take my camera. They couldn't take it and they
fought with me. They dragged me along the street. Then a special forces
officer in an army like uniform electrocuted me with his equipment, and put
gas in my face. My eyes watered. I couldn't see. The electric shock
paralyzed me. I fell down. They took my camera and telephone. They
electrocuted me several times. Then about fifteen special forces officers
beat me with batons. They dragged me under a tree, paralyzed, and left me
there.88

According to Grigorian, his clothes were covered in blood and torn. He
suffered a broken nose, swollen arm and hand, and bruising to his whole
body.89

On the evening of April 14, the authorities returned Grigorian's broken
camera, but did not return the videocassette with the recording of the rally
events.90

The night of April 12-13, Haik Gevorkian, from the opposition daily
newspaper Haikakan Zhamanak, went to photograph the opposition rally. When
the security force attack began, he photographed the water cannon vehicles
and police coming from the parliament grounds and attacking the protesters.
Concerned for the safety of his camera and photographs, he went some twenty
or thirty meters down the road, and found an empty courtyard, where he stood
behind a fence and continued to photograph the events. He told Human Rights
Watch:

Suddenly I saw a group of thirteen or fourteen police, headed by [a very
high ranking police officer]. They were all in uniforms with batons and
helmets. They came straight for me, no one else was there. [The high ranking
officer] knows me well. He's known me since 1998 through my work as a
journalist. I wasn't worried. I knew that he knew who I was, that I wasn't a
protester, but a journalist. He came up to me and took my camera. [I started
to speak], but didn't have time. All the police began to beat me with
batons.... They shouted and swore. I said, 'I'm a journalist.' They said,
'we know.' I just tried to protect my head. Then they dragged me, beating
me, to the parliament entrance. Someone grabbed me by the back of the neck
and while the others beat me.91

Police continued to beat Gevorkian, who was lying on the ground at the
entrance to the parliament while he repeatedly shouted out that he was a
journalist. They put him in a police van. He no longer had his bag with his
dictaphone or press card. Gevorkian's colleague, Avetis Babajanian, from the
same newspaper, was also in the van, and said that police had beaten him as
well. Although Gevorkian had suffered head injuries and was covered in
blood, police did nothing to help him. Only some hours later, after taking
the journalists to the police station, did Gevorkian receive medical
attention. He was released on the morning of April 13. He had bruising all
over his body and a swollen back. Several days after the attack, he was
still having difficulty walking.

Gevorkian demanded that the police return his camera and dictaphone and
requested that the Procurator General's Office open a criminal case against
the police officers involved in the attack on him. By April 17, the
authorities had not returned his equipment or taken any other action in
relation to the attack.92

Mher Ghalechian, a journalist with the opposition weekly newspaper Chorrord
Ishkhanatiun (Fourth Power), was working in his office on the night of April
12-13, when he received a telephone call saying that police were arresting
opposition activists at the Republic Party headquarters. He took his camera
and dictaphone and went to the headquarters, where he started to photograph
police detaining opposition members. Five police in camouflage uniforms
attacked him and beat him all over his body with batons. He told them that
he was from the press. They arrested him and put him in a prisoner transport
van for six, but which held twenty-four other people. Police took his
camera, dictaphone, and money. They took him to a detention center and put
him in a cell with no mattresses or blankets, with no explanation as to the
reason for his arrest or his legal status. They refused to grant him access
to a lawyer or to make a telephone call. He was released after sixteen
hours, receiving no documentation or explanation for his arrest. Police
refused return his camera, dictaphone, or money.93

On April 5, the Russian television channel NTV had its broadcasting
suspended in Armenia. The official reason given for the suspension was
because of technical problem. NTV had been broadcasting footage of the
opposition protests in Yerevan. By mid-April NTV was still off the air.94


International Response

International bodies responded to the April events in Armenia with
statements of concern and calls for a political dialogue between the
opposition and government.

The Council of Europe issued two statements of concern. Its Secretary
General warned of an anti-democratic decline in Armenia and called on the
government to guarantee "all human rights which are protected under the
European Convention on Human Rights."95 The United States government made a
statement, calling on "all sides to respect the role of peaceful assembly
and to take all steps to prevent violence."96

The OSCE made several statements of concern, but blamed both the opposition
and government for the situation. In an interview with Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty on April 13, OSCE Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin stated,
"[w]e don't share the opinion that the demonstration was purely peaceful
because all sorts of provocative statements were being made and stones were
being thrown [at police forces]. But that's not the point. We are against
any kind of violence, and we conveyed our concerns in this regard personally
to [President Kocharian]."97


Recommendations

To the Armenian Government:

Investigate the use of excessive force by the police and other security
forces on the night of April 12-13, 2004. Bring to account all security
officials who used excessive force.

Cease the use of explosives and electric shock equipment for the control of
non-violent public demonstrations.

Provide training to all members of the security forces on international and
domestic human rights standards and hold accountable all members of the
security forces who deviate from these standards.

Investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police custody
and prosecute those found responsible for such acts.

Comply with Council of Europe's calls to repeal the use of administrative
detention and cease using arrest as a means of pressuring the opposition.

Investigate the attacks on journalists and prosecute those responsible.

Enact legislation guaranteeing the right to peaceful assembly and
establishing a procedure to ensure that this right is respected. Request the
Council of Europe to review the draft legislation before it is enacted.

Cease the practice of restricting travel of opposition supporters in order
to limit their right to freedom of assembly.

Repeal criminal defamation provisions in the Criminal Code and drop all
current charges against opposition members for criminal defamation. Ensure
the trials against opposition members currently in pre-trial detention
comply with international fair trial procedures.

Comply with the OSCE recommendations made in their final report on the 2003
presidential election, in particular to bring to account those responsible
for election fraud and other violations.

To the International Community:

To the OSCE, Council of Europe, European Union, European and United States
Governments:

Strongly condemn and demand an end to the abuses committed in Armenia
described in this briefing paper, and promptly condemn any new abuses that
occur;

Call for all officials implicated in abuses to be brought to justice;

Continue to press the Armenian government to implement the OSCE
recommendations in the final report on the 2003 presidential elections.

The European Union and the United States should closely monitor any funding
provided to the Armenian government, particularly security-related funding,
to ensure that it does not go towards security agencies implicated in
abuses.

The European Union should make better use of the periodic reviews of the
Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Armenia to urge the
Armenian government to bring its laws and practices into compliance with
international standards, with particular attention to the violations
documented in this briefing paper.


To the Council of Europe:

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Monitoring Committee
should send an ad-hoc mission to Armenia to investigate the recent abuses
and present its findings to the Assembly's plenary session in June,
formulating specific recommendations for steps the authorities need to take
to address the ongoing crisis and setting a specific deadline for meeting
them.


The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers should put the ongoing crisis
in Armenia on the agenda of its upcoming ministerial meeting and call on the
Armenian government take urgent measures to adhere with its obligations
stemming from its membership with the Council of Europe.


The Council of Europe Secretary-General should appoint independent experts
to investigate the serious ongoing abuses taking place and call on the
Armenian government to take urgent measures to address them.


The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) should
continue to monitor closely torture in Armenia and should consider ad-hoc
visits to Armenia with a particular focus on the places of detention where
those arrested in connection with the recent protests have been held.


To the European Bank on Reconstruction and Development (EBRD):

Take into account the findings contained in this briefing paper when
assessing Armenia's compliance with Article 1 of the Agreement Establishing
the Bank, and make clear to the Armenian authorities that the nature and
level of engagement will be contingent on measurable progress in human
rights. In so doing, the EBRD should set specific benchmarks for such
progress.


To the World Bank:

The abuses documented in this briefing paper undermine the World Bank's goal
of eradicating poverty in Armenia. The 2003 Republic of Armenia Poverty
Reduction Strategy highlighted the need to "protect the economic, social,
and legal guarantees of human rights and liberties," and identified
governance and public participation in the political process as key elements
in eliminating poverty. In its engagement with the Armenian government, the
World Bank should reinforce OSCE and Council of Europe recommendations for
reform that would serve the broader goal of empowering the poor.

---
http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/armenia/0504/