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Europe Faulted For ‘Limited’ Criticism Of Yerevan


Russia -- Carroll Bogert, Deputy General Director of Human Rights Watch, holds a copy of her organisation's annual report during a news conference in Moscow, 23Jan2012

Russia -- Carroll Bogert, Deputy General Director of Human Rights Watch, holds a copy of her organisation's annual report during a news conference in Moscow, 23Jan2012

A leading international watchdog has accused the European Union and the Council of Europe of unduly softening their criticism of human right abuses in Armenia.

In its annual World Report released on Sunday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Armenian authorities’ human rights record and said their international partners “have not fully leveraged their influence” on Yerevan.

“Several of Armenia's international partners limited their criticism of the government’s human rights record,” reads the report. “In its May [2011] European Neighborhood Policy progress report, the European Union highlighted Armenia's lack of judicial independence, limited media pluralism, poor prison conditions, and inadequate investigations into ill-treatment, but stopped short of articulating concrete human rights improvements required as part of its engagement with Armenia’s government.”

The report faults the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) for declaring, in an October resolution, that the authorities have essentially overcome the political fallout from the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. It says that the resolution criticized by the Armenian opposition gave President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration “undue credit.”

“More than three years after deadly street clashes between police and opposition protesters left 10 individuals dead, there has been no meaningful accountability for the excessive use of force by law enforcement,” said Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based group cited a renewed investigation into the violence that was ordered by Sarkisian in April, shortly before the release of the last opposition members remaining in jail on charges stemming from the unrest.

Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) insisted late last month that the deadly clashes were provoked by opposition protesters and that the use of lethal force against them was therefore justified. The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) rejected this conclusion.

HRW also criticized continuing ill-treatment of criminal suspects in custody, an upsurge in libel suits filed against media outlets critical of the government and what it called government restrictions on freedom of assembly. The watchdog referred to severe restrictions of transport communication between Yerevan and the rest of the country that were imposed ahead of just about every HAK rally held in the Armenian capital last year.
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