A senior European Union diplomat urged the Armenian authorities on Thursday to properly investigate a spate of violent attacks on opposition activists which have heightened political tensions in Armenia.
“This kind of violence has to be thoroughly investigated,” said Traian Hristea, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan. “We will be very much looking forward to the result of the investigations.”
Hristea argued that human rights and democracy are on the agenda of the EU’s dealings with the Armenian authorities. “We have permanent contact with our [Armenian] colleagues and we put questions to them,” he told reporters. “We look at how these issues are being dealt with.”
The EU Delegation already expressed concern at the violence in a December statement issued after five Armenian oppositionists were beaten up in separate incidents. All of them had actively participated in anti-government demonstrations organized by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Zharangutyun parties in September and October.
The opposition trio accused the Armenian authorities of orchestrating the violence for political purposes. The authorities denied any involvement. They have still not arrested anyone in connection with those incidents.
The EU statement said that failure to punish perpetrators of the attacks could deepen “a sense of impunity” in Armenia. Two more well-known government critics have been assaulted in Yerevan since then.
One of them, a BHK activist, was kidnapped by masked men and beaten up for several hours on Saturday. The BHK, which is the country’s second largest parliamentary force, blamed the Armenian government for the attack. The government angrily denied the allegations and warned the party led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian against exploiting the incident.
Tsarukian on Thursday promised a $100,000 reward for anyone who would help identify “the organizers and perpetrators” of the attack on Artak Khachatrian. He announced the reward through a spokeswoman after meeting with the chief of the Armenian police, Vladimir Gasparian, to discuss progress in the ongoing criminal investigation into the incident.