Davtian discussed, among other issues, the controversial practice with Andrea Wiktorin, the head of the European Union Delegation in Yerevan, at a meeting on Thursday.
A statement released by Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said that “at the request of Ms. Wiktorin” Davtian “presented in detail the reasons for the need to criminalize serious insults in Armenia.” That, he said, is necessary for “reducing or neutralizing the scale and impact of hate speech,” added the statement.
Amendments to the Armenian Criminal Code enacted last summer made “grave insults” directed at individuals in connection with their “public activities” crimes punishable by heavy fines and a prison sentence of up to three months.
Hundreds of people have already been investigated by the Armenian police and other law-enforcement agencies under those amendments. According to Davtian’s office, 31 of them were formally charged by January 1. Most of them are thought to have been accused of offending Pashinian or other state officials.
Armenian and international human rights groups have expressed serious concern over the new Criminal Code clauses. The U.S. democracy watchdog Freedom House has repeatedly said that their passage and enforcement highlight a “clear degradation of democratic norms” in Armenia.
EU and U.S. government officials have not publicly criticized the prosecutions.
The prosecutors’ statement did not say whether Wiktorin was also concerned about the practice. Instead, it cited the EU diplomat as saying that the Armenian authorities are continuing to implement “reforms aimed at strengthening the rule of law, democracy and human rights institutions” in the country.
The EU issued no statement on Wiktorin’s meeting with Davtian.
All forms of slander and defamation had been decriminalized in Armenia in 2010.