Essay

Is there a future?

13 / 07 / 2022

Article translation & cover design provided by our partners at 301.am. Click to view the article in Armenian.

Over a year ago, on June 20, snap parliamentary elections were held in Armenia, in which the de facto authorities received 688,671 votes, totaling about 53.1% of the total vote. With an overwhelming majority in parliament and 71 mandates, the de facto ruling faction acquired authoritarian power. It’s evident that participating in the elections provided a form of legitimacy to the de facto regime who lost a war and led a country to its defeat. Receiving that “steel mandate” that’s been talked about greatly, the de facto regime believes that they are authorized to do anything arbitrarily under a veil of false legitimacy. And at every opportunity, the de facto authorities drum at everyone, claiming that they have the mandate from the people. But did the people give the mandate to the de facto regime to not ensure the country’s external security, hand over Artsakh to Azerbaijan, and to constantly trample on the rights of the Armenian people. Judging by the election program of the “Civil Contract” Party presented to the people a year ago, not at all.

One year after the snap parliamentary elections, the “Armenian Wave” online periodical has highlighted 7 points presented by the de facto authorities during the election campaign, which have remained unfulfilled in the last year, and moreover, if the de facto authorities continue to remain in power, will just remain on paper.

Judicial Reforms:

  • We will ensure the access of independent and fair judges to the judicial system, which is one of the main guarantees for the establishment of an independent judicial system.

Taking into account the signals and statements voiced by a number of human rights defenders, it can be concluded that the authorities’ ideas about an “independent and fair judge” differ from the classic ones. It could be stated that the sphere of justice is one of the primary targets of the de facto authorities. One of the most striking examples of this is the prosecution and detainment of judge Boris Bakhshiyan of the Court of General Jurisdiction in Armenia’s Syunik Province, which began on February 1, 2022. Regarding the case, the judge’s attorney had appealed to the former Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, Arman Tatoyan. The decision to detain the judge was illegal because the judge acted within the scope of his powers. Moreover,  Bakhshiyan’s lawyers have denounced his arrest as government retribution for his January 26 decision to free Ashot Minasyan (Ashot Yerkat), a prominent war veteran and opposition activist. This becomes a clear signal addressed to judges who will try to challenge the de facto authorities.

  • We will continue to improve our legislation in the fight against violence, hatred, hostility, discrimination in order to protect democracy and prevent abuse of law. Disagreements and pluralism should be an occasion for a broad public dialogue leading to solidarity and public mutual trust.

This principle is one of the most one-sided principles in force in the Republic of Armenia. Now let’s explain what we mean by one-sided. If the de facto authorities find individuals in the opposition whose activities can be limited by the application of this principle, then this is quite effective. Clear evidence of this is the well known article 137.1 of the Criminal Code, also known as the “Article on Heavy Insult to Other Person.” According to this ill-fated article, numerous members of the opposition and ordinary citizens supportive of the opposition have been persecuted. Besides the fact that this is nothing but a limit of people’s freedom of speech similar to extremely dictatorial regimes, the article is inherently unconstitutional and has many open and contested sides, as numerous human rights activists have stated. Thus, the de facto authorities, saying that they would continue to improve legislation to combat violence, hatred, hostility, probably meant this article, which was adopted without delay after receiving the “steel mandate” following the elections. Otherwise, hatred and intolerance should have been eliminated long ago on social media and beyond, especially against the people of Artsakh, the Artsakh flag, and the opposition. However, such cases strangely remain out of the attention of the ruling power and human rights advocates. And when even those who took the hypocratic oath show professional dishonesty and do not provide adequate medical care to a war veteran who is handicap and supports the opposition, then this is nothing but discrimination. Therefore, we can confidently state that pluralism is not encouraged in Armenia today.

  • We will be attentive to the protection of human rights in the case of particularly vulnerable groups. Our attention will also be focused on the relations between people and the law enforcement system in order to exclude the prevention and prosecution of violence, torture, inhuman and degrading behavior, as well as to guarantee legal and practical conditions for the truly free and unhindered activities of human rights defenders.

Experience shows that the de facto authorities’ attention is focused only on the suppression of dissidents and citizens that support the opposition through the law enforcement system and the use of violence against the latter. The use of excessive force by the police during the demonstrations of the opposition’s movement taking place in the last month and a half is direct proof of this. Both from the videos distributed on the internet and from the complaints of human rights defenders, it is obvious that the police used disproportionately large force, causing serious bodily injuries to citizens. Let’s add that the Resistance Movement representative Ishkhan Saghatelyan stated on June 5 that there are currently 50 political prisoners in Armenia. Therefore, it is safe to say that dissidents in Armenia are subject to political persecution and torture.

“The Artsakh Problem”:

  • The Republic of Armenia will continue to be the guarantor of the security of the people of Artsakh…We will deepen cooperation with Artsakh in the security and military spheres. We will provide effective assistance to Artsakh in the process of reconstruction and improving the efficiency of the defense Army.

Armenia has virtually ceased to be the guarantor of Artsakh’s security, since its own security cannot be guaranteed. Since May 12, 2021, Azerbaijani troops have invaded the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia and still continue to illegally occupy at least 41 square kilometers of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, while the de facto authorities of the Republic of Armenia appeal to the international community or refer to erroneous articles when contacting the CSTO. There is also no element of ensuring military security. During this year and a half following the war, there has been no conscription in Artsakh at all and the Artsakh Defense Army has not been strengthened. The only aid the de facto authorities provided was the provision of certain financial resources and the construction of houses.

  • One of Armenia’s priorities in the negotiation process will be the de-occupation of those territories where the people of Artsakh have expressed their right to self-determination and the return of the former settlements of the NKAO to the control of Artsakh by peaceful, negotiated means, which will enable displaced persons to return to their homes.

In the last year, the de facto authorities of the Republic of Armenia have neither raised the issue of the de-occupation of the NKAO nor the self-determination of the people of Artsakh as a whole. Self-determination has become so profitable that following the results of the last trilateral meeting in Brussels, there was no reminder of Artsakh’s self-determination and the political unit “the people of Artsakh” was lessened to “the ethnic Armenian population of Artsakh.”

  • We must do everything to ensure that the 3 parties who signed the agreement on November 9 fulfill their obligations.

The de facto RA Prime Minister said the following on June 6, 2021. And just a day later, during his election campaign in Armavir, the prime minister made a statement, in which he made clear that the de facto authorities are in no hurry to work on the return of Armenian prisoners of war. The following was said in particular, “And yes, they will forgive us for remaining in captivity for another month or two…” Keep in mind that the immediate return of prisoners is one of the points of the aforementioned agreement of November 9, and Azerbaijan has not actually fulfilled its obligation under this point. In addition, the Armenian side has not been consistent in its efforts. On May 26, nearly a year later, in an interview with “Sputnik Armenia,” human rights activist Siranush Sahakyan addressed the issue of the Armenian prisoners of war and confirmed these sentiments. Sahakyan noted, “According to the data available to us, clarified and based on evidence, another 80 people were captured, and they should be returned to their homeland alive. Naturally, there is some uncertainty in their fate, since months or years have passed, but the fact of captivity is beyond doubt. Therefore, the number of 39 prisoners of war is extremely underestimated, and the actual number of prisoners is 119. We are talking about prisoners during and after the 44-day war.” Instead, the de facto authorities are spreading the Azerbaijani narrative that the Armenian side has 39 prisoners in Baku prisons.

Environmental Protection and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources:

  • We will continue to work on raising the water level of Lake Sevan.

The report on the hydrological regime of Lake Sevan for the period from January 24 to January 30, 2022 indicates a difference in the level of the lake. In particular, the report notes that “the level of Lake Sevan in the period from January 24 to January 30 decreased by 1 cm and amounted to 1900.39 m (30.01.22), which is 13 cm lower than the level of the same day last year.”

Through these examples, we see that in the last year, we have had no substantive results in solving some of the most critical problems. In particular, in addition to no positive developments in the judicial and legal system and in the settlement of the Artsakh problem, a huge regression has been recorded, if this situation can be referred to that. The society is polarized and the people are being persecuted for supporting the opposition and expressing their political views.The de facto authorities of Armenia themselves claimed a year ago that “the people of Artsakh cannot exist under the leadership of Azerbaijan.” However, one year later, we are witnessing the gradual process of the surrender of Artsakh.

As a result, we must draw two important conclusions from all of this: 

  • No matter how much the de facto authorities trumpet their mandate and associate it with their apparent legitimacy, these facts still prove that legitimacy is out of the question. Legitimate authorities meet the vital demands of the state. These de facto authorities have neither the will nor the abilities and therefore are not legitimate.
  • Since the de facto government in its election program did not indicate either the surrender of Artsakh or the growth of political pressure, none of those who voted for it gave it a mandate, whether velvet or steel, to act against the vital interests of the state. However, today they are doing just that and as a result are breaking their election promises. Consequently, the de facto authorities do not have a mandate to leave Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan. They do not have a mandate to suppress their citizens and to fail to govern the country.

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  1.  RA Parliamentary Elections, https://res.elections.am/images/doc/20.06.21v.pdf (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  2. Civil Contract Party Judicial Reforms, https://www.civilcontract.am/hy/1619355097 (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  3. Lawyers of Judge Boris Bakhshiyan appeal to the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, https://ombuds.am/am/site/ViewNews/2110?fbclid=IwAR2VyNPd0o99t-Sn9jXkmdIztUR0UGxEyOUL5q_aqmCfAjjY8TXl3b4uNl0 (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  4. Civil Contract Party Judicial Reforms, https://www.civilcontract.am/hy/1619355097 (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  5. Lyova Yeghiazaryan’s Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=pfbid0xLyk5qGSNMBFEVc2KJTUGwwEUk5dHHtBq4c1FdGVerydgdaTVuRSLbqp4fke6Teul&id=100011695262547 (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  6.  Hayk Martirosyan’s Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/hayk.a.martirosyan/posts/pfbid0JqqkmJDC2qTeufuVG87XaCtuPre6rAdmG7uCCDsjx7GMZcA3jwp5io5qGeSARnHhl (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  7. Ruben Melikyan’s Facebook post, , https://www.facebook.com/rubenmelikian/posts/pfbid02nYKaMKTnv8wE1r6HdWaF33FY1vsn2ZbJkH7XR2vqu1Zc54aArHCzq1A6DWk8Uay2l (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  8. Facebook Live Video from Ruben Melikyan’ Facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/rubenmelikian/videos/1042171919732528/ (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  9. Support Measures, https://www.gov.am/am/support-measures/ (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  10.  Press statement by President Michel of the European Council https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2022/05/23/press-statement-by-president-michel-of-the-european-council-following-a-trilateral-meeting-with-president-aliyev-of-azerbaijan-and-prime-minister-pashinyan-of-armenia/ (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  11.  Nikol Pashinyan Speech, “Civil Contract” Party Election Program,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCs2Ouo4rdE&t=40m21s (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  12. “The prisoners will forgive us for remaining in captivity for more than a month or two,”-Nikol Pashinyan, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mzDc8TtkV4 (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  13. “Contradictory data on prisoners can get a legal assessment – human rights activist,” https://ru.armeniasputnik.am/20220526/protivorechivye-vredyaschie-armyanam-dannye-o-plennykh-mogut-poluchit-pravovuyu-otsenku-42492324.html (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  14. “Civil Contract” Party, Environmental Protection and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources, https://www.civilcontract.am/hy/1622710609 (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  15.  Hydrological Regime of Lake Sevan, January 24-30 (2022), http://www.meteomonitoring.am/post/671 (Accessed 20.06.2022).
  16.  “Civil Contract” Party, The Artsakh Problem, https://www.civilcontract.am/hy/1619349203 (Accessed 20.06.2022).

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