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Armenia

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
Armenia


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Human rights in Armenia are better than those in most former Soviet republics and have drawn closer to acceptable standards, especially economically. Still, there are several considerable problems. Overall, Armenia's human rights record is similar to that of Georgia's. Armenia has been labeled as "partly free" by organizations such as Freedom House. [1]

Contents

Political freedom

Since the ouster of Levon Ter-Petrossian as president, political freedom has seen some improvement. Ter-Petrossian's administration saw constitutional change that secured more power for the president than the parliament. He also banned nine political parties (including, notably the Armenian Revolutionary Federation). Ter-Petrossian's semi-autocratic style of governing and his gradualist approach to solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict led to his ousting and the succession of Robert Kocharyan as president. [1]

Economic freedom

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Armenia has been making a steady transition from a centralized economy to a free market economy. Armenia is the most economically free state in the Commonwealth of Independent States. According to the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom, Armenia ranked at 27, tied with Japan and the Bahamas, and was categorized as a "mostly free" country. [2] However, corruption and a high degree of income inequality remains a problem. [3 ]

Police brutality

There have been reports of police brutality and arbitrary arrests carried out. Beatings and torture of detainees before trial is used to obtain confessions or information. Demonstrations against the government have been dispersed with force, and opposition leaders have been detained. Abuse is common in the army and is suspected as the cause of many suspicious deaths. [4]

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Incidents

On May 12, 2007, Levon Gulyan, who was called to the police as a witness to a murder case, died in the Police Main Department of Criminal Investigations after allegedly being beaten to death and thrown out a window by Hovik Tamamyan, the First Deputy Chief of the Police Main Department of Criminal Investigations.[5] Police say that Gulyan slipped and fell down the first floor while trying to escape police custody. A preliminary forensic medical examination by forensic specialists from Denmark and Germany states that Gulyan's death was the result of fatal injuries that included fractures of the skull, thorax, spine and ribs. According to ArmeniaNow, "murders committed inside the police are not disclosed."[6] In a letter addressed to the Head of Police, the Executive Director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) cited suspicions on the police explanation of Gulyan's death and mentioned that torture and ill-treatment by the police remain serious problems in Armenia, as noted also by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture in its 2004 report on Armenia.[7]

A partial list compiled by ArmeniaNow names 11 others who suspiciously died while under police custody.[8]

Freedom of expression and of the media

While the media has a degree of independence, the freedom of press in Armenia is limited. Some independent channels, such as A1+, Noyan Tapan, and Russian NTV, have had their frequencies taken away by the government. Journalists covering a demonstration against President Robert Kocharyan were attacked when police intervened to detain the protestors. [9]

Television

Other than the Gyumri-based GALA, virtually all Armenian TV stations , including the Yerevan-based national networks, are controlled by or loyal to the government. The only major private network that regularly aired criticism of the government was controversially forced off the air in 2002.[10]

2008 State of Emergency

Following the 2008 Armenian presidential election protests, President Kocharian controversially declared a 20-day State of Emergency on March 1, and used it to ban all public gatherings and censor all media (both Internet and in print) to include only information sponsored by the state. Also, the authorities closed several opposition newspapers along with their websites, including A1+ and Haykakan Zhamanak. Furthermore, the government blocked access to the YouTube website which contained videos from the March 1 protest and late night clashes with police that showed special forces firing automatic weapons directly into the crowd. Also blocked was the radio transmission and website access to Armenian Liberty, a service of Radio Free Europe.

Attacks on journalists

Frequent attacks on journalists of non-state sponsored media is a serious threat to Armenia's press freedom.

On April 30, 2009, Argishti Kiviryan, a coordinator of the ARMENIA Today news agency (a paper known for its opposition stance), was severely beaten on his way home from work in Yerevan. Three unknown individuals reportedly assailed and severely beat Kiviryan causing him serious head and face injuries. His condition was reported as "serious but stable" after he was taken to the Erebuni medical center.[11] The Human Rights Defender of Armenia, Armen Harutyunyan, condemned the act and, noting that almost all cases of violence against the journalists taken part in the past have not been disclosed, called upon the Police to investigate and disclose his assailants.[12]

On November 17, 2008, Edik Baghdasaryan, Armenia's most prominent investigative journalist and editor of Hetq, was violently attacked and sustained a severe head injury for which he had to be hospitalized. The attack was likely connected to his reported.

Freedom of religion

The Armenian Apostolic Church has a considerable monopoly in Armenia, possessing more rights than any other registered religion. Other religious minorities include Russian Orthodox Christians, Syriac Christians, Greek Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, Yazidis, and Jehovah's Witnesses. By and large, Armenia's Muslim community (once composed of Azeris and Kurds) is virtually nonexistent due to population exchange between Armenia and Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Yazidis and the Jehovah's Witnesses are the most harassed religious minorities in Armenia. Since Armenia's independence, the Jehovah's Witnesses have attempted to convert Armenians to their faith, believing many of them to have adopted the communist doctrine of atheism during the Soviet years. Feeling a threat to the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian government has continuously harassed them using such methods as preventing them from registering as a religious group and imprisoning them for their refusal to serve in the military.

The Yazidis came to Armenia during the 19th and early 20th centuries to escape religious persecution. According to the 2001 Census, there are about 40,000 Yazidis in Armenia.[13] According to the 2004 U.S. Department of State human rights report, the Yazidis are subjected to harassment in Armenia, including the hazing of Yazidi army conscripts and poor police responses to crimes committed against the Yazidis. A high percentage of Yazidi children do not attend school, both due to poverty and a lack of teachers who speak their native language.[3 ][14]

Democracy Rating

The Economist magazine rates Armenia as a "hybrid regime", which they consider to be some form of democratic government". However, they gave Armenia a very low place, and noted that it could be easily "tipped into an outright authoritarian regime". [1]

See also

References

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