YEREVAN (Arminfo)—Human Rights Watch has condemned the severe beating of Artsakh war veteran Smbat Hakobyan, who was attacked in Yerevan on September 21 after participating in an anti-government protest.
“A member of an independent political group critical of the Armenian government was savagely beaten after a protest in Yerevan, the capital, on September 21, 2015,” Human Rights Watch said today. “The authorities should immediately investigate the beating of Smbat Hakobian, a member of the Alliance of Freedom Fighters, and bring those responsible to account.”
“No peaceful protester should have to fear a brutal beating just for expressing their views,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The effectiveness of the investigation into the vicious assault on Smbat Hakobian will be a true test of how seriously the Armenian government takes its commitment to free expression and peaceful assembly.”
Human Rights Watch recalled that Armenia is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and has clear obligations under the convention not only to respect the right to peaceful assembly, but also to ensure the security of those exercising that right and protect them from unlawful interference by others.
Armenia also has obligations to carry out effective investigations into attacks on bodily integrity and personal security and to ensure that police use of force is in compliance with international standards. Those standards limit use of force to situations in which it is absolutely necessary to respond to physical threats to the police or others and then is strictly proportionate and nondiscriminatory.
“People in Armenia shouldn’t be risking serious injury to take part in a peaceful protest,” Denber said. “The government needs to make clear that anyone who interferes with peaceful protesters will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.”
On September 21 Smbat Hakobyan, an Artsakh war veteran, was severely beaten in the center of Yerevan. A few minutes prior to the incident, Hakobyan, together with a number of civic activists, participated in a protest in front of the office of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), calling for a change in government.
Hakobyan was hospitalized with numerous injuries. He is currently in an intensive care unit and his condition is moderately grave. The beaten veteran was unable to tell investigators the details of the incident.
The activists who helped him say that when their protest was over and the veteran was walking along Abovyan Street, 5-6 people in civilian clothing approached him, showed him what appeared to be an identity document, forced him to enter a fenced area on Abovyan Street, and then proceeded to severely beat him.
The activists say they did not manage to see what car the assailants traveled in. They said that while Hakobyan was being beaten, not a single policeman responded to their calls for help.
To draw attention to the situation, the activists pushed garbage cans into Abovyan Street, disrupting traffic. Only then did police arrive at the scene, the activists say. It is widely rumored that the son-in-law of Ruben Hayrapetyan, the president of the Football Federation of Armenia, is complicit in the beating.