Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Armenia’s “Human Rights Day”

10 December – Human Rights Day, 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Around 70 political prisoners.

No free and fair elections on any level (with few minor exceptions).

Restrictions to freedom of assemblies/rallies.

Electronic media (TV), which is the most accessible media in Armenia, is not free or partly free. Situation became slightly better but it's more of a cosmetic nature than a real change. There are still banned TV channels (A1+, Noyan Tapan). Print media is effectively free. However, it does not have enough circulation and population access.

Armenian courts are not independent, and many court cases remind absurd theatres.

Non-stop pressures on businesses close to the opposition to ‘surrender’.

There are problems in relation to all aspects of human rights: children rights, women rights, gender equality, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity...

The best thing to happen in human rights field in Armenia was the introduction and functioning of the Human Rights Ombudsman, both as a person and as an institution. It's far from perfect in terms of work and influence, but recent evidence proves that Armenia’s Human Rights Ombudsman was able to assist in protecting human rights in our country, like no other state person/institution in Armenia. I would consider Armen Harutyunyan as a Person of the Day.

There are also encouraging signs on international level showing that at least based on some recent instances Armenian government aligns itself with the more progressive segments of international community. In particular, I commend Armenian government for signing under the proposed French-sponsored and EU-backed UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (separate post on this unprecedented action is upcoming), as well as
signing European treaty which potentially grants adoption rights to same-sex couples. So far, Armenia is the only country in the region to endorse above mentioned international documents.

It was amusing to read speaker of Armenian parliament Hovik Abrahamyan’s statement on Human Rights Day: "Human rights will be at the centre of attention of Armenian parliament". First, Armenian parliament has to be representative of population, which is – disappointingly - not. Then, it has to prove that it indeed an institution to protect human rights, which is – disappointingly - not.

It's easy to issue statements and declarations on human rights. It's completely different matter and pretty tough to actually mean it and make them work.