Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, on Tuesday condemned police in Yerevan for breaking up a demonstration against an imminent rise in electricity prices with violence and mass detentions.
Nearly 100 civic activists and other Yerevan residents were confronted by the police on Monday as they rallied outside the offices of the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) to protest against its plans to raise the energy tariff for households by 10 percent.
Two of them were detained while trying to break into the PSRC headquarters. The crowd surrounded a police van that was about to transport them to a nearby police station. Riot police units responded by using force against and arresting more protesters. Some of them were injured in the process.
At least 27 persons were taken into police custody as a result. They were set free several hours later.
“Maintaining public order does not mean beating up citizens,” Andreasian said in a short statement. He said the excessive use of force testified to a “lack of professionalism” among police officers.
“Therefore, we expect adequate steps against all of the police officers who used disproportionate force against participants of the gathering,” added the ombudsman.
Andreasian at the same time criticized some of the protesters for “rudely insulting and shoving” the policemen. “Exercising human rights does not presuppose illegal conduct and disrespect for law-enforcers,” he said.
Commenting on the statement, the chief of Yerevan’s police department, Ashot Karapetian, defended the police actions. Still, Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that he has order an “internal inquiry” into the incident.