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Armenian rights groups condemn police attacks on opposition MP and protesters

30 May 2024
Armenian riot police in Yerevan on 30 May. Photo: Narek Aleksanyan/Hetq.

A group of Armenian rights organisations have condemned the police’s violent dispersal and detention of around 300 protesters and an attack on an opposition MP

In a joint statement on Tuesday, five leading local rights groups condemned ‘all instances and manifestations of violence by law enforcement agencies’. They demanded the authorities conduct an independent investigation into each reported violation.

‘The use of such methods by the police is the result of a longstanding policy of impunity within the system, leading to the use of violent force becoming the main tool of the police’, read the statement.

The statement comes after the police dispersed protests led by the anti-government and anti-border delimitation Tavush for the Motherland movement in Yerevan and other parts of the country. 

[Read more: Galstanyan suspends priesthood to run for prime minister in Armenia]

The movement vowed to hold acts of civil disobedience throughout the country, leading the police to deploy tear gas to disperse the protesters.

‘Improper behaviour by protesters cannot in any way justify the unlawful actions of police officers’, the groups said.


The organisations also called out the government for their investigation into the violent detention of opposition MP Ashot Simonyan of the Armenia Alliance by. 

Footage shared on social media showed riot police officers surrounding Simonyan, cursing at him, throwing him to the ground, and slapping and kicking him.

The Interior Ministry later announced that it was launching an investigation into the incident, and that they had suspended a police officer.

The organisations also demanded an explanation as to why the Interior Ministry deployed a ‘large number of police officers’ near the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Party’s headquarters. The party is a member of the Armenia Alliance.

Police antagonised

While MPs from the ruling Civil Contract party have acknowledged the attack on Simonyan, they maintained that the MP had provoked them by cursing at them.

‘When a personal insult is made to a police officer, they cannot protect their dignity psychologically and they go out of control’, said ruling party MP Maria Karapetyan. ‘This is how I see the situation and I think that we should work in this direction, it is unacceptable, the policeman cannot lose his self-control’.

Arthur Hovhannisyan, another Civil Contract MP, also appeared to justify the violence towards Simonyan, because the opposition MP ‘allowed himself to stand, look into the policeman’s eyes […] and utter sexual insults’ at him.

Police Chief Aram Hovhannisyan also appeared to justify the police’s actions.

‘Well, let’s take a look if something had happened, why did it happen?’ Hovhannisyan told reporters, adding that if the ministry’s investigation found that its employees were guilty of attacking Simonyan, they would be punished.

The authorities’ response to the incident was criticised by human rights activists for equating Simonyan insulting of the police and their attack on him.

‘Now you may say that both of them were cursing, I don’t care at all what the citizen did […] In one case we are directly dealing with a citizen, and in the other, with a special unit performing a professional service’, wrote activist Zara Hovhannisyan on Facebook.

She added that the police get their salaries from Armenian tax money but ‘unfortunately, show unconditional loyalty to the leadership of the moment’.

International organisations have criticised the Armenian authorities’ use of violence against government critics and journalists over the past few months.

In its latest report on Armenia, Freedom House noted that there was an increase in cases of police violence. 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also denounced ‘deliberate police violence against reporters’. 

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
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