Armenia: “More efforts are needed to strengthen human rights
Strasbourg, 09/05/11 –
“Some significant steps have been taken to address the human rights
consequences of the March 2008 events, but more needs to be done to
promote reconciliation in society and reinforce public trust towards the
authorities”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,
Thomas Hammarberg, releasing today a
report on his visit to Armenia
carried out in January 2011. The report focuses on human rights issues
related to the March 2008 events, freedom of expression and freedom of
assembly and association, and the human rights situation in the army.
The Commissioner considers that the use of force on 1-2 March 2008 was
excessive and that the investigation into the ten deaths has not been
effective. “None of the perpetrators have been identified to date.
Command responsibility of senior officials within the police and the
security services appears not to have been seriously considered. The
Armenian authorities should pursue vigorously these investigations and
bring all those responsible to account. The families of the ten victims
should receive adequate compensation for the loss of their relatives and
should be fully associated to and informed about the investigation.” The
Commissioner welcomes the recent instruction from President Sargsyan
with regard to the investigation into the death cases and hopes that
this will be translated into concrete progress in identifying and
punishing those responsible.
While welcoming the release of many of those deprived of their liberty
in connection to the March 2008 events, three of whom were released
after his visit, the Commissioner continues to have serious concerns
about the situation of remaining imprisoned opposition activists and
urges the Armenian authorities to release them.
The report also pays particular attention to freedom of expression,
including freedom and diversity of the media. While welcoming the
decriminalisation of libel and insult through last year’s amendments to
the Criminal Code, the Commissioner remains concerned about the increase
of cases brought against media outlets on the basis of amendments to the
Civil Code. He stresses that unreasonably high fines in civil cases
relating to media should be avoided. At the same time, ethical standards
for journalism and a system of self-regulation should be encouraged.
Expressing alarm over the attacks and pressure on journalists that have
taken place in the past two years, the Commissioner calls upon the
country’s leadership to firmly condemn such incidents and to take
measures to prevent their recurrence.
The implementation in practice of the right to freedom of peaceful
assembly in Armenia also remains a source of concern. “Unlawful and
disproportionate impediments on peaceful assemblies, such as
intimidation and arrest of participants, disruption of transportation
means and blanket prohibitions against assemblies in certain places,
should be immediately discontinued. It is crucial that the behaviour and
actions of police forces during assemblies abide by human rights
Commissioner Hammarberg therefore encourages the Armenian authorities to
review the national legal framework and practice related to freedom of
expression, freedom of the media and freedom of assembly in order to
bring it in compliance with human rights standards.
The report also addresses the issue of non-combat deaths, torture and
ill treatment which have occurred in the Armenian army and have featured
prominently in the country’s public debate. “The Armenian authorities
should intensify their efforts to eliminate such grave cases of abuse in
the military and to put an end to the impunity of perpetrators and
There is also an urgent need to review the Law on Alternative Service
and to create a genuinely civilian service option, whose length should
not be perceived as punitive, deterrent or discriminatory. Finally, the
Commissioner strongly recommends releasing all conscientious objectors
who are in prison because of non-performance of military service.
The response of the authorities of Armenia is attached to the report.
Press contact in the Commissioner’s Office:
Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37;
Keep up to date with the Commissioner on