Armenia’s Justice Ministry has drafted a bill that would make it a crime to publicly call for or justify violence in the country.
Under its draft amendments to the Armenian Criminal Code, such statements would be punishable by fines and up to three years in prison.
The ministry has yet to submit the amendments to the government for approval. It called for a public debate on the amendments when it publicized them earlier this month.
The bill appears to stem from angry remarks made by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian at a June 6 cabinet meeting in Yerevan. Pashinian ordered law-enforcement authorities to clamp down on groups which he said are advocating political violence as part of a “hybrid war” waged against his government.
Pashinian did not name those groups or individuals linked to them. He only spoke of “forces directly or indirectly connected to the former corrupt system.”
Speaking at that meeting, Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian said that his office drafted relevant legislation two years ago and that it was never enacted by the Armenian parliament. He complained that the National Assembly subsequently criminalized only public calls for terrorist acts. Pashinian responded by telling one of his legal advisers to look into the prosecutors’ bill.
The premier’s statements prompted sarcastic responses from several prominent members of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and other bitter critics of the current government.