Armenian authorities have arbitrarily detained dozens of people linked to the ongoing, largely peaceful, protests and beaten many of them, Human Rights Watch said. The authorities also have pressed unjustified criminal charges against numerous protest leaders and some participants and denied them basic rights of detainees.
“The Armenian authorities’ response to Yerevan’s largely peaceful protests has been excessive and cruel,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The tense atmosphere at some protests is no justification for detaining people arbitrarily, beating them, and bringing disproportionate criminal charges against them.”
Experts have warned that the public demonstrations in support of gunmen who initiated a two-week hostage crisis in a Yerevan police station must serve as a wake-up call to Armenia’s government. The armed group, called Sasna Tsrer or Daredevils of Sassoun – the name of an Armenian epic poem – was coordinated by several veterans of the Nagorny Karabakh war of the early 1990s, Arshaluis Mghdesyan writes for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting:
Stepan Grigoryan, chairman of the board of the Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation (ACGRC), said that the political response to the crisis had been pathetic.
“The political elite, especially parliament, showed its utter helplessness during the days of the crisis and its detachment from public sentiment,” he continued. “The political system was just in a stupor, which highlights the question of a change of political generation.”
Artak Kirakosyan, chairman of the Civil Society Institute in Yerevan, agreed that the events of recent weeks should serve as a wake-up call for the government.
“These problems must be solved, and the authorities should learn a lesson from all that has happened,” he said. “This is a crisis of the entire political system and a crisis of confidence. Most importantly, the ruling party has lost the upcoming parliamentary elections.”