Assault on Armenian pro-democracy activists

2 Jul

According to an online blog link from a World Movement for Democracy e-mailer, another pro-democracy activist has been physically assaulted in Armenia, Yerevan.

The most recent case involved Narek Hovakimyan, a 19 year old freshman, belonging to the youth movement of Hirma, and from the Yerevan State University, being beaten up by unknown assailants.

Similar cases in which activists were physically attacked have been documented for the past two years. On 28 May this year, another youth activist, Arsen Kharatyan was also physically battered in Yerevan. The 20-year-old Narek Galstyan, leader of the youth wing of the opposition Social- Democratic Hnchakyan Party, was also viciously bashed up on November 15 last year. Two days prior to the incident, Narek Galstyan and another activist were detained by the police for ‘posting leaflets critical of the Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian’.

Another more serious assault case involved Mikael Danielyan, chair of the Armenian Helsinki Association. Reported to have been shot by a pneumatic gun on 21 May this year, Russian human rights defenders, have since issued a statement, urging the authorities to carry out a swift and comprehensive investigation. According to Europe and Central Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Holly Cartner, “The circumstances of the attack on Mikael Danielian suggest that his prominence as a human rights defender was a motive”.

To date, none of the culprits have been arrested.

Amnesty International 2008 Report has noted various human rights abuses including, ‘widespread and credible reports of restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly. Opposition parties reported abuses of administrative bureaucracy during the May parliamentary election campaign to obstruct legal demonstrations. In May and October police used force to disperse peaceful demonstrations by opposition parties.’

Human Rights Watch has also documented violence against peaceful protestors after the February 2008 elections. Giorgi Gogia, Caucasus Researcher, to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (US Helsinki Commission) noted in his findings that the authorities used excessive and illegal use of force on peaceful protestors. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has also criticised the Armenian National Assembly for passing a new law that restricted peaceful assembly.

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