The crowd led by top representatives of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) chanted their names and also demanded President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation during the peaceful protest not hindered by the police.
Among the protesters were two opposition activists set free this month after spending more than two years in prison on charges stemming from the 2008 post-election violence in the capital. About a dozen other HAK loyalists remain behind bars.
“We are not leaving the streets. Our will and desire to achieve victory are not fading away,” Aram Manukian, a leading member of the opposition alliance, told the crowd at the end of the demonstration.
Both the organizers and participants claimed that Armenia’s current government is unwilling to improve its human rights record criticized by Western governments and watchdogs. “If the authorities are not elected, human rights will naturally be violated,” one man told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“Under these authorities, our rights will never be protected,” said another protester. “We will get rid of them soon.”
Armen Harutiunian, the human rights ombudsman, similarly described the government’s rights record as “non-satisfactory” after meeting with students at a Yerevan public school on the occasion. He said that each year his office receives about 5,000 citizen complaints about various abuses allegedly committed by law-enforcement, judicial and other state bodies.
Speaking to journalists, Harutiunian asserted at the same time that the situation with human rights in Armenia has improved significantly in the last five years. The current government is committed to strengthening the rule of law, he said.
But Artur Sakunts, a prominent human rights campaigner based in the northern city of Vanadzor, strongly disagreed. He claimed that violence and repression remains “the dominant value” of the Armenian authorities.