Below are selected extracts and headlines from Armenia chapter in Human Rights Watch annual world report reflecting events of 2010. I could sum up it as a year of lost opportunities for Armenian authorities and for re-establishing democracy and respect for human rights in Armenia.
1 March chapter still wide open
11 political prisoners
No thorough investigation into deaths
“Authorities have yet to ensure a meaningful investigation into, and full accountability for, excessive use of force by security forces during clashes with protestors in March 2008. Ten people were killed, including two security officials and eight protestors. Only four police officers have been convicted of excessive use of force, in December 2009. They were sentenced to three years, but were amnestied immediately, and are only barred from working in law enforcement.
More than 50 civilians were prosecuted in relation to the March 2008 violence, with some sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Although a June 2009 presidential pardon released many of them, local human rights groups maintain that 11 opposition supporters remain imprisoned on politically motivated charges.
On January 19, a court sentenced Nikol Pashinyan, opposition leader and editor-in-chief of the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper, to seven years imprisonment for allegedly organizing "mass disorders" during the March 2008 events. An appeals court upheld the decision but halved his sentence. In November 2010 Pashinyan claimed two masked men attacked and beat him in Kosh prison; the government denied the allegation.
In April 2010, relatives of nine victims killed in the March 2008 violence, the eight protestors and one of the soldiers, appealed unsuccessfully to court for a thorough investigation into the deaths.”
Torture and Ill-Treatment in police custody, army
“Local human rights groups report continued ill-treatment in police custody. For example, on April 13, 2010, police detained 24-year-old Vahan Khalafyan and four others in Charentsavan, north of Yerevan, on suspicion of robbery. Khalafyan died of knife wounds some hours later. Police say he stabbed himself with a knife obtained in the station, and deny allegations of ill-treatment.
On April 23, investigators charged the head of Charentsavan's Criminal Intelligence Department and three others with abuse of authority. The trial is ongoing at this writing. Khalafyan's relatives and human rights groups want additional murder and torture charges. An internal police investigation led to the dismissal of Charentsavan's police chief and three officers. The Helsinki Citizens' Assembly (HCA) Vanadzor Office reported that police ill-treated two other men detained with Khalafyan. Police failed to conclusively investigate these incidents.
On August 27 a court ordered the investigation into the death in custody of Levon Gulyan be reopened. In May 2007, Gulyan was found dead following a police interrogation. Authorities say he jumped from the second-story of a police station trying to escape. Gulyan's relatives deny this, insisting he was tortured.
During a September 2010 visit the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention interviewed numerous detainees and prisoners who alleged beatings, other ill-treatment in police custody, and refusal by prosecutors and judges to admit evidence of the ill-treatment into court.
In September a YouTube video showed Army Major Sasun Galstyan beating and humiliating two conscripts. An investigation into abuse of power is ongoing.
In June the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found Armenia had twice violated the prohibition against inhuman or degrading treatment in the case of Ashot Harutyunyan. Convicted of fraud and tax evasion in 2004, Harutyunyan died of a heart attack in prison in January 2009. The court determined authorities had denied him necessary medical care for his multiple chronic health problems, including heart disease, an ulcer, and diabetes. The court also found the government's public restraint of Harutyunyan in a metal cage during his appeal hearings amounted to degrading treatment.
On July 26, 14 human rights groups issued a statement citing a 20 percent rise in the national prison population, which is leading to overcrowding, health problems, and conflicts among detainees.”
No independent TV station
Restrictions in freedom of assembly
Human rights defenders
“Police closed the investigation into the May 2008 attack on Armenian Helsinki Association Chairman Mikael Danielyan, who was wounded when an assailant shot him with a pneumatic gun after an argument. The investigation was allegedly closed due to lack of criminal intent. A court rejected Danielyan's appeal against the decision.
Mariam Sukhudyan, primarily an environmental activist, publicized on national television in November 2008 the case of two girls who alleged sexual harassment at a Yerevan school. Police charged Sukhudyan with falsely reporting a crime. On March 10, 2010, the United States Embassy awarded Sukhudyan its first ever Woman of Courage Award. A day later, the criminal case against her was dropped.”