Violations: Helsinki Committee release report of familiar abuse of rights

Last year, development of human rights protection in Armenia was hindered by the free flow of information and violations of the right for peaceful assembly, according to the latest report of the Helsinki Committee of Armenia.

The March-April issue of the “Ditord” (“Observer”) magazine cites familiar examples of how the republic failed to fulfill democratic principles in the sphere of human rights.

“At the local administration elections of 2005 frauds and violations were the same as those at the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2003 – stuffing ballot boxes, open voting, bribes, cases of threatening of confidants and observers,” mentions the report.

Avetik Ishkhanyan, chairman of the Helsinki Committee, says the Committee also monitors whether Armenia is fulfilling its obligations for membership in the Council of Europe.

The report also includes information researched by other international organizations.

Transparency International, for example, reported that Armenia is 88th on a list of 159 countries in its corruption record in 2005.

According to an observation by the Committee no significant progress has been registered in terms of preventing the spread of corruption compared to the previous years.

Surveys by World Bank (WB) and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have revealed that compared to 2002 (before corruption commissions were established), more companies mentioned corruption as a major problem hindering entrepreneurship in Armenia last year.

According the “World Press Freedom Index” published by the Reporters without Borders international organization in 2005 Armenia ranks between 102-105 in respect to freedom of press. In 2004 Armenia was 83rd.

Monitoring by the Yerevan Press Club in November 2005 concluded that TV companies have not provided balanced coverage of political campaigns or of last fall’s Constitution referendum.

The Helsinki Committee argues the Armenian media do not provide diversity of opinions and are self censored.

Armenia’s justice system, the report concludes, have been inefficient as a mechanism for protection of human rights.

Prisons have shown an increase in mistreatment of inmates, “Ditord” reports, though Ministry of Justice representative Artur Hovhannisyan says the opposite is true.

The Committee’s report comprises also cases of property rights violations, mentioning the eviction of residents at Buzand and Amiryan streets from their homes according to “state need”.

According to complaints submitted to the Ombudsman, 176 citizens have been deprived of their homes in 2005.

The Helsinki Committee claims the construction taking place at the sites of the dismantled houses once belonging to the residents of those streets “is not anyhow connected to the state needs; private enterprises will realize business projects there to build multi-apartment blocs and will sell the apartments.”