U.S. Ambassador John Heffern met on Tuesday with the chief of the Armenian police, Vladimir Gasparian, to discuss recent violent attacks on Armenian civic activists which were condemned by the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.
According to a statement issued by the national police, Gasparian briefed Heffern on ongoing criminal investigations into those beatings and “measures that are taken to prevent such incidents.” The statement said Heffern expressed hope that the police will “fulfill their mission to protect human right and maintain public order.”
Nobody is known to have been arrested or charged yet in connection with the attacks reported from August 22 to September 5. At least six activists involved in anti-government protests in Yerevan were beaten up by groups of unknown thugs in that period.
The violence prompted strong condemnations from the U.S. and European Union missions in Armenia as well as international watchdogs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. “We urge the government of Armenia to take swift action to condemn the attacks and to investigate, and prosecute the perpetrators,” the U.S. Embassy said in a September 12 statement.
So far the Armenian police claim to have identified only two of the men involved in the August 25 beating of two young participants of an ongoing sit-in outside the Yerevan Mayor’s Office. It is still not clear whether they have been detained or formally charged.
The police last week rejected claims by civic groups at odds with the Armenian government that they are doing nothing to punish the attackers. Some activists have alleged that the authorities themselves orchestrated the violence to intimidate the protesters.
Gasparian assured Heffern that his forces are “continuing to operate in an open and transparent manner” and that he is committed to boosting public trust in the police. The police statement also quoted the U.S. envoy as praising security forces for their generally restrained handling of recent anti-government demonstrations.