Armenia should Lift Ban on Peaceful Protest: Human Rights Watch
Azerbaijan, Baku, 29 March / corr Trend K.Ramazanova / The Armenian government should lift new restrictions on freedom of assembly and cease detaining opposition supporters participating in peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said in its official statement.
On March 25 and 26, 2008 police detained at least 60 opposition supporters in Yerevan who were peacefully demonstrating against restrictions imposed last week on public assemblies following violent clashes on March 1 between police and opposition protesters.
"The Armenian government should allow peaceful demonstrations, not ban them," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The new restrictions effectively punish peaceful demonstrators for the violence that took place on March 1."
The new amendments violate Armenia's obligation to respect peaceful assembly. The European Convention on Human Rights, to which Armenia is a party, guarantees freedom of assembly, and governments may not place unreasonable restrictions on this right.
"Authorities have used the changes to the law to deny at least six requests from opposition parties to hold demonstrations at Freedom Square in downtown Yerevan. The government justifies the denials by claiming that participants in the March 1 violence may seek to participate in future demonstrations as well, Human Rights Watch stated.
On 20 February, the Armenian opposition headed by the ex-President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who ran for presidency during the recent elections, began holding demonstrations in the centre of Yerevan protesting against the results of the elections at which Serzh Sargsyan won. The dispersal of the demonstration by the police resulted in confrontation.
According to the Armenian Prosecutor General's Office, over 260 people sustained injuries, 8 died. On 1 March, President Robert Kocheryan decreed on proclaiming emergency situation in Armenia for 20 days. The Prosecutor General's Office filed a criminal case on the riots intended for takeover and violation of the Constitution. As a result, 106 people were arrested.