Wednesday, January 15 2020 18:24
Marianna Mkrtchyan

Human Rights Watch presents its vision of state of human rights in  Armenia 

Human Rights Watch presents its vision of state of human rights in  Armenia 

ArmInfo.  Human Rights Watch presents its vision of the state of human rights in Armenia.

Thus,  the World Report 2020, presented yesterday by the  organization's Executive Director Kenneth Roth, notes that Armenia's  Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan swept to office in 2018 after popular  protests, further consolidated his power following the December 2018  snap parliamentary elections, which international observers found  genuinely competitive and in line with international standards. 

Having secured a parliamentary majority, the government embarked on  an ambitious reform agenda, including tackling corruption and  reforming the economic and justice sectors. 

"However, investigations into past violence and excessive use of  force by law enforcement remained limited. Violence and  discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,  discrimination against and segregation of people with disabilities,  and domestic violence persisted'', the report reads.

Human Rights Watch notes that the authorities revived an  investigation into the 2008 deadly clashes between protesters and  security forces, and in June 2019, charged a high-ranking official  with murdering a protester while security forces were breaking up a  demonstration.  However, investigations into two episodes of  excessive police force against largely peaceful demonstrators and  journalists in 2016 and 2015 remained suspended.  Authorities claimed  they were unable to identify the alleged perpetrators.

The report points to omissions in the field of nature protection,  citing examples related to protests around the development of the  Amulsar gold deposit.

The authors of the report consider that domestic violence persisted  as a serious problem.  According to official data, during the first  half of 2019, authorities investigated 331 criminal domestic violence  cases, including 176 that were newly initiated. They brought charges  in 209 cases and sent 45 cases to courts. But in most cases,  authorities do not protect women and child survivors of domestic  violence, jeopardizing their lives and well-being. The 2017 family  violence law requires police to urgently intervene "when there is a  reasonable assumption of an immediate threat of repetition or the  continuation of violence" in the family. But in practice, law  enforcement bodies lack awareness and training on protection  mechanisms envisaged by the law, such as protection orders, and do  not adequately use them.  The authors also indicate as an omission  the fact that the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and  Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul  Convention) had not been sent to parliament for ratification.

Touching upon the rights of people with disabilities the authors of  the report noted that Armenia made progress in transforming some  residential institutions for children into community centers and  supporting family-based care. Armenia aims to have fully inclusive  education by 2025, whereby children with and without disabilities  study together in community schools. Despite progress, many children  with disabilities remain segregated in separate special schools or  classrooms, or isolated in home education. 

According to the report lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender  (LGBT) people often face harassment, discrimination, and violence.  The criminal code does not recognize homophobia and transphobia as  aggravating criminal circumstances. Discussions around the  ratification of the Istanbul Convention descended to hateful and  derogatory speech by some public officials against LGBT people,  suggesting that the convention has a hidden agenda of "LGBT  propaganda" and legitimizing same-sex marriage.  The  government-proposed bill on equality, intended as comprehensive anti-  discrimination legislation, does not include sexual orientation and  gender identity as grounds for protection from discrimination. 

Human Rights Watch specialists in their report also touched upon the  visit of the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to  freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and the report  published on his country visit, welcoming Armenia's democratic  transition and calling on the authorities to undertake profound  reforms "to strengthen the judiciary, the independent investigative  bodies and police."

The organization recalls that in May, the European Union published  the EU-Armenia partnership implementation report, welcoming steps to  implement economic, justice sector, and political reforms, but also  acknowledging the early stage of the reform process. It also  highlighted the need to address discrimination against LGBT people  and people with disabilities.

In his July meeting with Pashinyan, European Union Council President  Donald Tusk stressed the importance of rule of law and an independent  judiciary. In April, the EU delegation and member states' embassies  in Yerevan and the UN Armenia Office expressed concerns about the  hate speech directed at the transgender activist, Lilit Martirosyan.

In June, the Council of Europe launched the Action Plan for Armenia  2019-2022 to support the government's efforts to "reinforce human  rights, ensure justice, combat threats to the rule of law, and  promote democratic governance."

In her January report, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human  Rights Dunja Mijatovic called on Armenia to improve women's rights,  protect vulnerable groups, and ensure accountability for past human  rights abuses.

In October, the Venice Commission, a Council of Europe advisory body,  issued an expert opinion countering harmful myths about the Istanbul  Convention, and concluding that Armenia's ratification of the treaty  would not contradict its constitution", the authors of the report  concluded. 

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