f

Անկախ

President Ter-Petrossian banned public demonstrations and called in army troops to patrol Yerevan


Human Rights Developments

The government's crackdown on the political opposition in September 1996 cast a pall on human rights. Given the 1995 ban on the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), Armenia's largest opposition party, and fraudulent 1995 parliamentary elections, the 1996 crackdown accentuated the government's intolerance of any real political opposition. The crackdown followed massive demonstrations on September 25 protesting election fraud in the September 22 presidential elections, in which incumbent Levon Ter-Petrossian defeated Vazgen Manukian by nine percentage points. Demonstrators marched to the parliament, where the Central Election Commission (CEC) was housed, and broke through gates to demand a recount. In the process they beat Speaker Babken Ararktsian and Deputy Speaker Ara Sahakian. In response, police brutally beat demonstrators and later arrested at least twenty-eight opposition leaders and supporters and CEC staffers. Among them, according to credible reports, Aghassi Arshakian, Kim Balayan, David Vartanian, Gagik Mgerdichian, and Aramad Zarkaryan, were brutally beaten; the latter required hospitalization for a fractured skull and broken nose and ribs. Attorneys for some of the detained, notably ARF leader Ruben Akopyan, were not permitted access to their clients.

 

In the wake of these events, police detained about 200 more individuals believed to have participated in the demonstration, President Ter-Petrossian banned public demonstrations and called in army troops to patrol Yerevan, and the Procurator General announced his intention to press charges of attempting violently to overthrow the government against Vazgen Manukyan and seven other opposition leaders. Police closed the offices of the National Democratic Union (Vazgen Manukian's party), the National Self-Determination Association(a tiny opposition party), the Union of Constitutional Rights (a nationalist party), and Artsakh-Hayastan (an organization for the promotion of Karabakh issues). This crushing of opposition forces bore out Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkissian's September 25 warning that "After [the September 25] events, even if they win 100 percent of the votes, neither the Army nor the National Security and Interior Ministry would recognize such political leaders."

 

Credible reports indicate that electoral violations did not occur in those electoral precincts monitored by international observers; however, in the majority of districts without international observers, no local observers were allowed, dead people and minors miraculously appeared on lists of voters, soldiers were bused in with orders to vote for Ter-Petrossian, and ballot boxes were reportedly stuffed. The elections failed to win the approval of the OSCE ODIHR Election Observer Mission, which concluded that "very serious breaches" in the voting raised concern "for the overall integrity of the election process."

 

The ARF remained banned throughout 1996, while the Ministry of Justice reviewed its request for reinstatement. At the latest hearing (September 12), the Ministry of Justice rejected the ARF's registration papers, claiming that they lacked the requisite minutes of the ARF's founding congress. As of this writing the process had not been completed.

 

The trial of Vahan Hohvannisian, the ARF chair, and thirty other ARF members (also known as the "Dro" trial, after the name of an alleged secret armed section within the ARF that is charged with planning to overthrow the Armenian government) dragged on and, as of this writing, more than a year after its opening, had reached no conclusion. In a stunning display of bias, the Supreme Court judge presiding over the case accused two of the defense attorneys who had participated in a USAID trip to the U.S. of having been funded for the trip by the defendants' families.

 

The Armenian Ministry of Defense continued illegally to draft refugees from Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh into the army and refused to give draft-age boys obligatory travel passes until they registered with their local draft board. Local draft boards on several occasions held hostage the parents of missing soldiers until the latter returned.

 

In April, the Ministry of Justice attempted to close Azg, the Ramkavar party daily, claiming that it needed to re-register under the auspices of the diaspora Ramkavar party, which is pro-Ter-Petrossian. The effort was unsuccessful.

 

The Right to Monitor

 

The Ministry of Justice refused to register the Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners, basing its decision on its view that since there were no political prisoners in Armenia, such an organization was unnecessary.

 

The Role of the International Community

 

Europe

 

In 1996 European institutions sought to include Armenia as part of an all-Caucasus strategy. In May the Council of Europe's committee of ministers voted in favor of having the Parliamentary Assembly consider Armenia's application for membership. In response to the September events, the council dispatched a mission to Armenia in early October. The European Union had been scheduled to sign an interim agreement underlying a broad trade and cooperation agreement with Armenia. It postponed a trip to Yerevan, where the signature ceremony was to take place, citing "security reasons."

 

United States

 

The second largest per-capita recipient of U.S. aid, Armenia received U.S.$95 million for FY 1996 under the Freedom Support Act, a 100 percent increase in assistance since 1995. The Clinton administration's reaction to the September events marked an abdication of its responsibility toward human rights in a country in which it has a significant investment. The State Department's initial, weak statement in response to the crackdown, which merely called on both sides to exercise restraint, demonstrated a feigned ignorance of government practices, exercised throughout the past two years, aimed at cutting the opposition out of mainstream politics. A later statement expressed "concern for the future of those arrested."

 

The Clinton administration's response is even more inexcusable, given the scrupulous work of the U.S. embassy staff in Yerevan, which monitored the Dro trial, met with the relatives of opposition leaders arrested in the wake of the crackdown, and generally is extremely well informed on human rights violations.

 

Two high-level State Department visits were devoted to regional security and Nagorno Karabakh, and neither had a domestic politics or human rights component. The State Department did, however, acknowledge obvious cracks in Armenia's democracy in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995 and in a July 30 congressional hearing on the Caucasus. Additionally, on October 22, the Department of State called on the Armenian government to adhere to OSCE recommendations concerning the election law, but again failed to take the government to task for the brutal crackdown.

 

Copyright notice: © Copyright, Human Rights Watch

Other Articles from Author

Read also

The comment of the Foreign Ministry of Armenia on the declaration signed by the Presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan
Perspectives | Does Baku favor Pashinyan in the Armenian elections?
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal submitted by Armenian PM’s representative
Top Economist Exposes Erdogan’s Lies on Bankrupt Turkish Economy
Foreign Minister of Iran Javad Zarif's visit to Armenia has commenced
To my suprise, I have been informed by the coaching staff of the Armenian National Team
Nagorno-Karabakh Is Moscow’s Latest Frozen Conflict
The session of the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers in a narrow format has commenced.
In response to Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s proposal, Serzh Sargsyan emphasized that the bipartite alliance could not be effective
With Turkey, the Problem Is NATO Membership, Not Armenia. Removing them from the alliance would actually serve a useful purpose
The criminal attack of dragging and beating the Aravus village pastor by Azerbaijani military servicemen confirms urgent need for a security zone around Syunik.
Biden Poised to Recognize Massacres of Armenians as Genocide, Officials Say
Gurgen Khachatryan. Despite the difficulties, we managed to overcome the crisis at Ucom
Catholicosate of Cilicia Refiles Lawsuit Against Turkey
They are a threat to peace and solidarity in the region, undermining the internationally established foundations of the human rights system.
AGBU President Berge Setrakian’s Global Message for April 24th and 115th Anniversary of the Organization
Shameful Story of Wounded Armenian Soldier Ignored, Denied Medical Care
The so-called "Park" dedicated to the Artsakh war in Baku is a proof of Azerbaijani genocidal policy and state supported Armenophobia: the Human Rights Defender of Armenia
AZERBAIJANI MILITARY THROWING STONES AT CIVILIAN CAR IN SYUNIK CONFIRMS THE URGENT NEED FOR A SECURITY ZONE
Saudi Arabia Should Sue Turkey For Stealing Prophet Muhammad's Relics
Brutal killings of elderly people, beheadings, etc. 5 years ago Azerbaijani armed forces committed unprecedented war crimes
Azerbaijan, a So-Called Ally of Israel, Friend of Jews, Betrays Israel at the UN
OPEN LETTER ON THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE ARMENIAN NATIONAL PREVENTATIVE MECHANISM
This is the St. Yeghishe Armenian Church in Mataghis, Artsakh (built in the 19th century).
Video really caught dolphins in a Venice canal this time
More
More