Torture Most Widespread Rights Violation in Armenia

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Certain human rights violations have increased in Armenia in recent years–said Chairman of the Freedom of Speech Committee of the Yerevan Press Club and Editor-in-Chief of the Ayzhem Weekly–Vigen Sargssian–at a Human Rights Protection Day ceremony Tuesday.

According to Sargssian–human rights violations reported in 1997 differ considerably from those registered in Armenia in past years. In particular–Sargssian pointed out that in early 1997–the Director of the "Periodika" printing house–which publishes 95 percent of Armenia’s newspapers–raised printing prices 20 percent without any valid grounds–and was severely beaten soon thereafter.

Sargssian stressed that more than 10 similar cases had been reported in Armenia. As a rule–law-enforcement agencies institute criminal proceedings but do not close the case.

Sargssian also drew attention to the fact that because of a lack of funds–six publications had ceased to exist. Two of the mentioned publications–"Aravot" and "Haykakan Zhamanak," had resumed publication as weeklies. Sargssian also noted that in all six cases–the labor legislation under which employees of the closed publications could receive salary for two subsequent months had been violated.

According to Sargssian–no contracts were concluded between founders and staffs of newspapers. "Journalists are accepted to the work and fired according to the desires of administration," Sargssian said–reasoning that journalists remain the most vulnerable strata of the population.

Sargssian said last Thursday’s strike was aimed at overcoming financial difficulties–stressing it was an unprecedented action of professional solidarity and that media outlets would continue to insist on the fulfillment of their deman’s.

"If there is no government support of the press–it will not be able to function normally," Sargssian said.

A representative of the Helsinki Committee of Armenia–journalist Vahan Ishkhanian–said the most widespread violation in Armenia is the violation of Article 5 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration which states that "Nobody can be subjected to torture–severe or inhuman treatment or punishment."

According to Ishkhanian–nine out of 10 arrested persons are subjected to torture. Two death cases resulting from torture have already been reported in Armenia this year–however–no one has been punished for it. Ishkhanian believes the suspension of the Dashnak Party has laid a foundation for violence caused by political irreconciliation.

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