More than a hundred activists briefly blocked a major Yerevan street on Tuesday as they rallied to demand punishment for police officers who used excessive force during recent street protests against an electricity price hike.
The activists carried pictures of high-ranking police officers who they believe must be sacked because of the June 23 violent crackdown on their “Electric Yerevan” movement. The demonstration was organized by No To Plunder, a youth group that launched and initially led those protests.
The small crowd sat on the ground at a busy street intersection in the city center for about 20 minutes. It resumed its march to the Office of the Prosecutor-General after senior police officers at the scene threatened to forcibly unblock traffic.
In a petition handed to the law-enforcement agency, the No To Plunder leaders demanded official “guarantees” that the violent policemen will be held accountable.
The mostly young activists were not satisfied with Monday’s announcement that nine officers, including a deputy chief of the Yerevan police, have been subjected to disciplinary action in connection with the June 23 violence. The Armenian police said that their “internal inquiry” into the abuses is continuing.
Another law-enforcement agency, the Special Investigative Service, is holding a parallel, criminal investigation into the use of force criticized by Western powers and human rights groups, notably Human Rights Watch (HRW). It has not charged anyone yet.
Rachel Denber, an HRW director for Europe and Central Asia, reiterated the New York-based watchdog’s “serious concerns” on Tuesday. “There really needs to be a full investigation into those actions,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in Yerevan. She said the investigation must also be transparent “so that the public can assess whether the steps taken were adequate.”
Denber also urged the Armenian authorities to refrain from breaking up further peaceful demonstrations. “As long as protests are peaceful, there should not be force used against them,” she said.