U.N. Official Deplores Rights Abuses In Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A senior United Nations official accused the Armenian authorities of restricting civil liberties and dissenting viewpoints on the airwaves as she ended a fact-finding visit to Yerevan on Friday.

Margaret Sekaggya, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders, met senior government and law-enforcement officials, judges, lawmakers as well as opposition leaders and civil society representatives during the five-day trip.

Speaking at a concluding news conference, Sekaggya expressed concern about the authorities’ human rights record and, in particular, “significant constraints imposed on the exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in Armenia.”

“While regulation by the authorities of freedom of assembly is legitimate, I have received reports of unreasonable and arbitrary restrictions being imposed by law enforcement agencies,” she said. “In a democratic society, the right to hold peaceful, open and public demonstrations should be available to all individuals without undue restrictions.

“I also note reports of restrictions being imposed upon indoor assemblies such as meetings and conferences, with regard to which human rights defenders have faced difficulties in gaining access to meeting space and facilities.”

Sekaggya went on to deplore periodical physical attacks on local journalists and human rights activists. “These cases would seem to illustrate an apparent culture of impunity in Armenia which impinges upon the work of human rights defenders,” she said. “This impunity appears to be closely related to the deep-rooted problems within the police system, as well as to the shortcomings of the justice system.”

Sekaggya’s meetings with opposition representatives in Yerevan focused on the fate of more than a dozen members and supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress who were arrested after the 2008 presidential election and remain in prison. She had a separate meeting with their relatives.

The U.N. official was careful not to describe the jailed oppositionists as political prisoners. “We have not yet been able to describe whether they are political prisoners,” she said. “We need more facts, we need to look at everything in detail.”

She noted at the same time that she emphasized to Armenian officials the need for “prompt and transparent investigations” into deadly street violence that was sparked by the disputed election.

Sekaggya further endorsed strong domestic and international criticism of the newly enacted controversial amendments to an Armenian law on broadcasting. “I would like to add my voice to those who have already expressed serious concerns about the amendments to the Law on Television and Radio,” she said. “If signed into law by the President of Armenia, these amendments will further restrict and seriously hamper the plurality of voices and opinions available to Armenian society.”

When told by journalists that President Serzh Sarkisian already signed the bill on Thursday, Sekaggya suggested that its opponents appeal to Armenia’s Constitutional Court if they see unconstitutional provisions in it.

Sarkisian and his loyal parliament majority pushed the amendments through the National Assembly last week despite serious objections voiced not only by local media groups but the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United States and Human Rights Watch.

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7 Comments

  1. Armanen said:

    Maybe margie should take care of the problems in her 3rd world country before she goes round the world speaking about human rights. Of course she is from the un and we all know how worthless that org is.

  2. Alex Postallian said:

    Armenia should get rid of the Russian influence it suffered for years,there is no excuse for it.You cant blame others if your own house is not in ORDER.

  3. john papazian said:

    I knew it,this little administrative person was going to point her little finger and try to make a name for herself. Armenias domestic issues today are a concern of the UN,Amnesty Int,and so on? Since when did they ever care?Where was all this humanitarian concern in 1915 or 1988? If the UN expects any respect at all then they had better start being honnest about thier own selective view of history.The poeple of Armenia do not need yet another UN politician casting judgement.After all it’s not like the UN has ever been there for Armenia,or that they ever would be.Armenia does not need the UN.

  4. Christo said:

    After all the concessions the west got from the RoA, they still have the audacity to criticize the administration.

  5. Random Armenian said:

    john papazian,

    There was humanitarian concern in 1915. But it was forgotten because those pages of history were ripped out and thrown in the trash out of inconvenience. But even if you don’t like the messengers, there are real issues in Armenia that are painful to read about. I can only say so much though, since I don’t live in Armenia.

  6. Nairian said:

    You made very good points John. For heavan’s sake where were they in 1895, 1896, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922 and 1923. Not to mention in Julfa, Naxichevan 3 years ago for the 3,000 demolished Khachkars. And where were the UN in Sumgeit, in Baku win 1988-1990??? Now they are raising their warped fingers to Armenia??? Get the heck out of putting their unjustified noses into Armenia.

    • john papazian said:

      That little earthquake on Dec 7 1988 that nobody showed up for,Cresent Moon,RedCross, and that inept UN official.

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