By Emil Danielyan
Human rights violations remain a serious problem in Armenia due to its government’s failure to tackle chronic police brutality, ensure the due process of law and eliminate restrictions on press freedom, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.
In an annual report on human rights practices around the world, the State Department also listed abuses reported during the authorities’ crackdown on the Armenian opposition last spring.
“The Government's human rights record remained poor; although there were some improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained,” reads the report. “Security forces beat pretrial detainees, and impunity remained a problem. There were instances of arbitrary arrests and detentions.”
“Witnesses reported numerous cases of police beating citizens during arrest and interrogation while in detention. Most cases of police brutality went unreported because of fear of police retribution,” it says, adding that the Armenian courts are still “subject to political pressure from the executive and legislative branches.”
The report also discusses “some limits on press freedom” in Armenia, saying: “There was no official censorship; however, there were continued reports of intimidation of journalists, and some print journalists continued to practice self-censorship to avoid problems with the Government and because of pressure from official sources.”
The report’s content largely mirrors the findings of leading international rights watchdogs. One of them, Human Rights Watch, denounced the authorities’ “repressive tactics” of dealing with last year’s campaign of opposition protests against President Robert Kocharian in a report last January.
The State Department likewise highlighted abuses reported at the time, noting in particular that the authorities used “excessive force” to break up an opposition rally near Kocharian’s residence on the night from April 12-13. “Police also beat several journalists who covered the opposition rallies and ransacked opposition party offices after dispersing the protestors,” says its report.