By Emil Danielyan
Human Rights Watch, the New York-based authoritative watchdog, issued on Tuesday a strongly-worded condemnation of the Armenian authorities’ crackdown on the opposition and urged the international community to help to end the “cycle of repression.”
“The Armenian government is repeating the same sorts of abuses that called into question the legitimacy of last year’s election and sparked the protests in the first place,” Rachel Denber, acting executive director of its New Europe and Central Asia division, said in a statement. “The cycle of repression must end.”
Attached to the statement was a 21-page “briefing paper” which details “mass arrest and police violence against opposition supporters.” They were documented by an HRW representative who visited Armenia last month.
Human Rights Watch demanded that the authorities investigate government “abuses” committed during the month-long opposition campaign of street protests against President Robert Kocharian. It said the United States, the European Union and other pan-European bodies should “closely monitor the situation and condemn any new abuses that occur.”
Its statement singles out “the excessive use of police force” during the violent break-up of the April 12 demonstration in Yerevan. “Human Rights Watch found that some of the worst injuries at that rally were caused by stun grenades, which inflicted deep wounds in many protesters,” it says. It adds that the authorities should “cease the use of stun grenades and electric-shock equipment for the control of nonviolent public demonstrations.”
The root cause of the heightened political tensions in Armenia, according to HRW, is the 2003 presidential election criticized as deeply flawed by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe. “Armenia has to address the underlying causes of the opposition’s demonstrations,” said Denber. “A first step would be to implement the recommendations made by the OSCE following the 2003 elections.”