Тема: Armenian society
Armenia to Pay Its First Monetary Compensation to a Citizen

European Court Declares Violation of Legal Rights by State Courts
[July 9, 2007]
On June 28, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg issued its first verdict against the Republic of Armenia, which included a fine of 4,000 Euros. This amount is to be paid by the State to plaintiff Misha Harutyunyan within three months. Lawyer Hayk Alumyan had presented the case to the European Court in 2003, basing it on a series of violations. The European Court recognized that the first point of Article 6 in the European Convention - the right to a fair trial - had been violated in the case of Misha Harutyunyan, for which he had to be paid 4,000 Euros in moral damages. The lawyer stated that the European Court had not discussed the matter of torture used against the plaintiff, because Misha Harutyunyan had been tortured before Armenia had signed the European Convention. The Court had ruled on whether or not the Armenian courts had the right to use testimony gained through torture against Harutyunyan and convict him – the verdict stated that this was against Armenia's commitment to the Convention. ”All the violations that were presented to the European Court had earlier also been presented to the Court of Cassation in Armenia,” said Hayk Alumyan in a conversation with us.

The events unfolded in 1998, when the dead body of a soldier serving near the Armenia-Azerbaijan border was found in the trenches. The military police arrested five conscripts. Hayk Alumyan, the defense attorney for one of them, Misha Harutyunyan, said that all the evidence pointed to a sniper shot from behind enemy lines being the cause of the soldier's death, because there had been an alert in the same area earlier and everyone had been warned not to leave their trenches.

However, the forensics expert involved in the case surprised everyone by saying that the soldier had not been fired at from a long distance, but had rather been shot from around 1-10 meters away. This conclusion allowed the military police to dismiss the version that the enemy had killed the soldier and to search for the killer among the conscripts serving with the victim. The defense managed to uncover the background of the forensics expert only later – he turned out to be a drug analysis specialist with a background in botany. However, his testimony was the only expert evidence used at the time. The five conscripts arrested were taken to military police headquarters and tortured. According to the lawyer, besides the usual methods of torture, the military police had also put pressure on the fingernails using a switch and thus tried to find out which of the five had committed the murder.

Two of the conscripts created alibis for themselves and claimed that they had gone to the adjacent unit to buy cigarettes; they were later convicted of leaving their unit without permission. Two of the remaining three had been together throughout, and when they were tortured they were asked if they committed the murder together or if they saw whether it had been Misha Harutyunyan, since he would have been in their field of vision had he been the murderer. ”They used the testimony of these two conscripts, obtained under torture, that the third - Misha Harutyunyan – was the killer and then forced Misha to confess,” said defense attorney Alumyan. According to him, Harutyunyan persevered for one month against the torture applied and refused to testify. After that he was told that he would be tried for murder anyway, but if he confessed, he would be charged with manslaughter instead, rather than murder in cold blood.

”We were successful in proving that Misha and the other two witnesses had been tortured and got expert opinion that Misha's wounds were the result of pressure using a blunt instrument – all ten fingernails on his hands were black,” said the lawyer. On the basis of this evidence, four military workers were convicted of forcing testimony from the three conscripts through torture.

However, that did not prevent the Syunik Provincial Court of First Instance from convicting Misha Harutyunyan and sentencing him to 13 years in prison. After the four military workers were convicted, Judge Lernik Atanyan could not deny that illegal methods had been used in gaining evidence from the conscripts and wrote the following in his verdict – ” Although the pre-trial period has seen the use of violence, this was done with the purpose of discovering the truth.”

During the long years of this legal process, the defense had been successful in having the criminal case appealed and reviewed on three occasions, but each time the military prosecutor would make a few cosmetic changes to the case and file it again. On the last occasion, no effort was spared to get a conviction. The Courts of Appeal and Cassation left the verdict unchanged, but slightly reduced the sentence to 10 years imprisonment. ”This means that the judges reviewing the case knew that Misha Harutyunyan did not commit murder, but if they had overturned the verdict, it would mean having to find the real murderer. That is why our courts upheld the conviction – to help the prosecutor – but decided on milder punishment, knowing that the accused was innocent,” added Hayk Alumyan.

Thus, after four and a half years in prison, Misha Harutyunyan was freed, though he was stuck with the label of a murderer and after already having served two-thirds of his punishment.

Based on the decision by the European Court, the Armenian courts will now have to review the verdict they had passed against Misha Harutyunyan. How will they treat the judges because of whom Harutyunyan suffered? Now he will be compensated with money obtained from the Armenian taxpayer. Alumyan stated that the Civil Code permits retrospective cases, which would allow the government to find the judge who is to blame and force him to pay the penalty.

Sara Petrosyan
# 25610
Onnik Krikorian 7/09/07

Despite the recent goodwill visit by Azerbaijani intellectuals and diplomats, some Armenian civil society activists are taking an increasingly hard line on the 19-year dispute with Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

A statement issued by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), a party that is a member of the governing coalition, underscored the changing mood. It cautioned against "giving away any territory," and demanded an immediate policy of settling the regions surrounding Karabakh currently under Armenian control. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Although the ARF is widely acknowledged to be among Armenia’s most nationalist political groups, its adamant position is shared by what appears to be a growing number of Armenians, observers say. Less than two weeks before a June 10 meeting between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, nearly 50 organizations issued an open letter opposing the return of any territory by Armenia as part of a potential Karabakh peace deal. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

The open letter specifically demanded that Yerevan end all negotiations with Azerbaijan "regarding the possible surrender of the liberated regions of Artsakh [the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh]." Further, it also stated that "any politician or public officer who should openly declare or demonstrate a willingness to surrender Armenian lands, will be regarded a national traitor and a blatant enemy of the state."

Samvel Martirosyan, founder of the OpenArmenia web portal, is one of the letter’s signatories. "Three or four years ago, society was really tired of the Karabakh issue and wanted to think about the economy," Martirosyan said. "But now people take a more radical position and this includes those who were more liberal and tolerant before." [Editor’s note: Martirosyan was once an occasional commentator for EurasiaNet].

The Association of Investigative Journalists of Armenia is a case in point. Despite having been involved in peace-building and regional integration projects, the association has now started to use the term "liberated territories" in its Hetq Online publication to describe the seven regions currently under Armenian control. The same publication has also criticized Armenian and Karabakh authorities for not doing enough to repopulate those territories with Armenian settlers, and has held public discussions to promote policy changes.

Martirosyan claims that attitudes are hardening because many Armenians no longer see any possibility of concluding a peace deal that benefits Armenia. The seeming reluctance of government bodies, along with many non-governmental organizations, to promote public debate on the Karabakh issue has contributed to the trend, Martirosyan added.

The opposition Heritage and Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) Parties, the only two opposition parties represented in Armenia’s National Assembly, were among the few political forces that addressed the Karabakh issue during the recent parliamentary election campaign [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Other parties largely avoided the issue, or did not express a well-defined position.

Stepan Safarian, former director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies and a newly elected parliamentarian for the opposition Heritage Party, agrees that the lack of an active, broad-based discussion about Karabakh has fueled opposition to compromise with Azerbaijan, but notes that increasingly aggressive statements from Baku also have played a major role. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Civil society activist Artak Ayunts maintains that a robust number of Armenians continue to support the search for a political compromise with Azerbaijan. "If Azerbaijanis visited Armenia and Karabakh, they could not have done so without the support of the Azerbaijani government," he said, referring to the June 28 goodwill mission. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive]. "Anyway, there are some NGOs here which are more liberal than others and who don’t want to react against a harder line coming from Azerbaijan by playing the same game."

Editor’s Note: Onnik Krikorian is a freelance photojournalist and writer based in Yerevan.
# 25709
Armenian ‘Coup’ Trial In Turmoil
By Ruzanna Stepanian

The trial on controversial coup charges of two prominent nationalists opposed to the Armenian government descended into chaos on Tuesday as dozens of their supporters staged an angry protest inside a court in Yerevan.

The presiding judge, Mnatsakan Martirosian, stopped the hearing after the two veterans of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and one of their former comrade-in-arms prosecuted on related charges were again warmly greeted by the sympathetic audience. The latter also chanted “Shame! Shame!” and other angry slogans to condemn what they see as a politically motivated case.

Martirosian said the trial will continue only after police officers ensure that everybody except journalists leaves the courtroom packed with supporters of Zhirayr Sefilian, Vartan Malkhasian and Vahan Aroyan. However, the order further infuriated the audience, which defied police orders and held an improvised rally on the spot in support of the three defendants.

Rafael Ghazarian, an ailing academician who had been a member of the country’s first post-Communist leadership, delivered an emotional speech, condemning the “disgraceful trial.” “We all know very well that they are innocent,” he said of the three war veterans. “They said things which have been said by all of us. I have spoken in even stricter terms. Why aren’t they imprisoning me?”

Yervand Manarian, a prominent Armenian actor also present at the trial, likewise accusing the authorities of unjustly imprisoning “national heroes.” “In five years from now … they will be sitting in the same dock,” Manarian said, referring to the country’s current leaders.

Sefilian and Malkhasian were arrested by the National Security Service (NSS) in December just days after presiding over the founding conference of a new organization opposed to the return of any of the occupied Azerbaijani territories surrounding Karabakh. They stand accused of calling for a violent overthrow of the government during the gathering. Both men strongly deny the charges.

Aroyan, was arrested as part of the same criminal case later in December after NSS investigators claimed to have found an arms cache in his village in southern Armenia. He too has protested his innocence.

The trial is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
# 49578

9.On 30th of May,1988, the president of the US Reagan visited Moscow for negotiations with Gorbachev. Human rights was the main topic of discussions. The leaders of Karabakh Movement took advantage of the situation for attracting attention of the leaders of two superpowers to this problem. The big meeting in the square of victory took the declaration, but it was only for Moscow leader. The people of Karabakh said that we must not ask the president of foreign power for aid, otherwise Moscow will be angry with us.
10.Now it's funny, but at that time when I pronounced the name of american president, the crowd was anxied. Then I calmed the people and said that Reagan's name will not be here. But it turned out I'm supported by the delegation from Martakert. We wanted to send the alternative declaration on behalf of several thousands of Karabakh people to Moscow
11.I was told in Yerevan that that the change of power was in the commitee. I met with new head of the commitee of "Karabakh" Vazgen Manoukyan. He approved my position and said that it is senseless to send something to Moscow, because Reagan is leaving tomorrow.
I get acquainted with new inofficial leader of Karabakh movement in this way.
Representative of commiteeof "Karabakh" in Artsakh
12. In august, the leaders and activists of comittee of "Karabakh"V. Manoukyan,V. Siradegyan, D. Vardanyan, D. Shahnazaryan firstly visited Artsakh and brought humanitarian aid in lorries. Their aim was to know Artsakh and the people of Artsakh and revive the cooperation with informal leaders of movement., the connection was lost after removing I. Mouradyan.
They reached Karabakh at about 6 o'clock in the morning and called me. My flat consisted of a room and there were only two eggs and only half can of sour cream.
I thought to myself why must I be ashamed that I make both ends meet.The shame on them who was well-off in war years.
13.After the meeting, Manoukyan proposed me to be the representative of the comittee in Artsakh. They told me that they have no more convenient candidate.Certainly, I refused, saying I have no enough authority and influence, but the further development of the events forced me to change my decision.
14. In september, during the next meeting, the wounded and beaten people and broken with stones cars appeared in the meeting.The big crowd went in the direction of Khojalu (village near Stepanakert),where azeris reacted our manifestations in mean way.
It was obvious,we need strictly organized groups of self-defence. But the fulfillment of general tasks depends not on the fact, that some idea or solution originated in the mind of someone for the moment, but it depends on the readiness of public consciousness to accept it as necessity.
15. Talking to the influensive people, I took the decision that I should take the proposal of Manoukyan I left for Yerevan. The sitting of the comittee adopted the decision of my appointment on the post of the representative of comittee in Artsakh.

Arrest in the town of Charentsavan

16.The ghost of war was over Karabakh. If the frontier village found combat granate or a gun, it was great happiness for its inhabitants. In one of my official journeys I must have succeeded. I was told that the lorry full of hand- made granates and about 20 hunting guns waited for me in the town of Charentsavan. The head of Charentsavan distribution of comittee was Yuri Ishkhanyan, he was told that munition delivery to Karabakh must be centralized and the mission must be carried out by me.In a week, I'll take about 3 hundreds of granates and then hunting guns. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. But three weeks later the evil fatehappened to me.
17.On 21 of december,leaving Charentsavan, I was arrested. The phone was heard.I had the ulcer in my stomach.
18. I was not afraid of prisons and death, only I was anxied about the children.

Prison of Sovetashen

19.The whole 3rd storey of the prison was for political arrestants.I was with academician Kazaryan and V. Ayvazyan who was killed in the course of disarmament . In the next camera such leaders as L. T. Petrosyan, Ararktsyan, Manoukyan, Siradegyan, the future rulers of independent Armenia.
20.Iwas much impressed by academician Kazaryan
The prison is the x-rays showing human souls. Why does not the president appoint such persons as Kazaryan on important posts of the comittee and by this step, he will gain trust of the people. Why? Because the citizens who rule the country avoid the truth.
21. A month later, I was set free.The native prosecutor's office helped me.
# 51739
Uprising: Armenia in the age of double-digit development
By John Hughes
ArmeniaNow reporter
Evidence of a city alive is seen at sunrise, far earlier than a recent past when only street dogs and street sweepers in Armenia were up and about
Evidence of a city alive is seen at sunrise, far earlier than a recent past when only street dogs and street sweepers of Armenia seemed aware that the clock holds a 7 for morning as well one on the p.m. side.

Signs of life changing are as simple as the changed signs on sidewalks, where cafes and restaurants invite residents and visitors to breakfast. Until very recently only hotels and one restaurant, Artbridge, opened for breakfast. Now, others have followed the trend common in the UK and North America – opening their doors as early as 8 a.m. Tiny-cupped Armenian coffee now shares the menu with the brewed variety. Iced tea is available in flavors that include pomegranate, and while service still remains stuck somewhere in transition, it now comes with a 10 percent charge to the bill.

Hours between dawn and near dawn in the city are a steady flood of traffic hardly imagined in the days when petrol was horded, if available at all. Now, a ride across town is a fight against traffic and building sites. And if taxi drivers here, as universally, are considered unofficial ambassadors of common society, draw your own conclusions about life in Yerevan based on the following experience.

On an October Friday evening while the work week wound into the weekend, a taxi was hailed in the city center. The driver asked the destination. Told that the trip would be through the center of the city, the cabbie refused the job. Too much traffic. The fare would have been 1,000 drams (about $3) and the stunned would-be passengers recalled a day when rides to Gyumri could be bought for a single pack of foreign cigarettes.

There is movement in Armenia now, where once there was imposed complacency. And more often than not, today’s movement is the rotation of a building crane heaving supplies upward. Slabs of concrete and bars of reinforcement iron obscure the Yerevan skyline with evidence of free-market growth. It is, too, the movement of nearby villagers reaching the city with their fruits and vegetables, looking for their portion of the promised trickle-down from double-digit economic growth that remains more myth than reality outside the capital.

“Elite”, “Business” and “Luxury” are a by-product of double-digit growth-at least for some.
Progress, or at least change, is more obvious in the last three to five years in Armenia than in the entire previous decade, dating to the awful days of energy crisis when survival was itself success.

School children now have mobile phones. Surely still a minority phenomenon, and surely an arguable definition of progress, such noticeable trends are nonetheless indicative of fundamental social change. These children popping open cell phones as soon as class is dismissed are themselves more expensive dependants than their parents were. For example, one popular private school here was among those that raised tuition fees this year. Costs rose from 45,000 to 50,000 drams (about $135 to about $150) per month.

Look to the streets, too. Certainly the Hummers and the Mercedes Benzes and the BMWs and the Lexuses still get the attention their owners crave. But while they may rule the streets, they don’t own them, going bumper to bumper with less expensive but more prevalent models that, too, indicate movement in the middle of society as well as at the top.

Armenia’s first drive-in theater recently opened in Yerevan. What could be more middle-class – especially considering that bowling alleys have already flourished?

A country famous for being old can’t seem to get enough of anything new. What it can’t import, it copies, whether television game shows or architecture, or the corrupting slang of hip hop, adapted to the revered language of Mashtots and newly inflicted upon this Armenia as surely as it was once a novelty in New York’s Bronx or in California’s Compton.

The way Armenia (as it is reflected mostly by Yerevan) looks, sounds, smells and indeed even feels, is changing. The embraceable innocence that was the romanticized struggle to survive has yielded to the less cuddly imperative to get ahead – as if years of thrift were mere preparation for binge consumption. At a new hypermarket here, shoppers can buy an inflatable two-person boat for about $450 on the same aisle as imported boxer shorts specially made, and awkwardly translated, for “fat men.”

And if they want to resist the need for “fat men” clothes, Yerevanians have a choice of several new health clubs, where they can work off consumption for about $45 a month.

While luxury homes rise around them, residents in the center of Yerevan still do not have 24-hour water service. Rubbish piles up as surely as in single-digit growth days and wild dogs flourish, making trips to those garbage piles a threat
While locals feel change in the growing prices of goods and services and in the physical appearance brought by building, Diaspora, too, have a changed homeland to return to. Many will feel it first in their wallets. To illustrate:

If you visited here as thousands did in 2001, you paid 10,000 drams exit tax at Zvartnots International Airport. If you leave here today, you will still pay 10,000 drams. But six years ago the dollar-equivalent price was about $17. In 2007, the dollar equivalent is about $31.

Change begets change.

The famous Armenian hospitality is now found after entering coded security doors, and while tables still hold the national cuisine, the tasty treats might well have been delivered by any number of catering services thriving in the capital. The dishes of dolma or ghapama might, too, share place with shrimp from Vietnam (frozen and $48 per kilo) or fruits from South America and wines from France for those who can afford the indulgence.

Outside the home, residents now can get fast food from new take-outs offering a service that previously had no tradition and certainly no market. Among the latest is “Quick Bite: For people on the run”. Armenians on the run? This is not your grandmother’s Yerevan.

Such changes, many observe, are brought by a healthy Gross Domestic Product. And Armenia’s economic growth has become practically a commodity itself, with the phrase “double-digit GDP” turned into jingo for politicians who use it to justify the need for maintaining the governing status quo.

Critics say that while the figures provide bragging rights, they do not represent a solid foundation for building a future. About 27 percent of the GDP is based on construction. Another 19 percent is private remittances sent from abroad.

Those figures add up to an economy that is nearly 50 percent (46) based on non-sustainable factors, leading one independent economist to call the economic makeup a “soap bubble”, and Armenia’s newest opposition politician Levon Ter-Petrossian to call it “fiction.”

Whether the source is food for thought for the analyst or fodder for propaganda for the politician, it is undeniable that the Armenia about to elect its next leader is economically far advanced from when it elected its first, or second or third.

A new highway opened in October linking Meghri-Kajaran is among improvements the government can claim as part of its strengthening of the country
Evidence of a city alive is seen, too, from the vantage point of a common kitchen window.

From Mashtots Boulevard facing Republic Square, 16 construction cranes fill the field of vision. More would be seen through that window; however an eight-story building that didn’t exist six months ago and a 12-story put up in the last year obscure the view. And this is only one viewpoint in a city overcome by construction.

For perhaps a more significant evaluation of whether substantial change is occurring, look past the blue tarps and through the dust of new construction to see inside buildings that have not been touched for years, where now many families have at least the means to renovate, even if they can’t afford to buy what they call “elite” properties going up around them. These new buildings rise where old homes stood. And the ugly side of progress is not yet forgotten by average citizens who were displaced to accommodate the building boom that may prove profitable for the country, but is understandably painful for those who were bought out at unfair prices to make it happen.

The same oligarch authorities who paid bargain-basement prices to buy out residents are accused of further abuse. This autumn, prices of cooking oil, wheat, butter rose inexplicably by up to 40 percent, effectively negating any advantages gained from increased pension payments promised by Prime Minister Serge Sargsian.

And even those untouched by the leveling of homes to build new ones wonder when they will benefit from the heralded double-digit growth. While luxury homes rise around them, residents in the center of Yerevan still do not have 24-hour water service. Rubbish piles up as surely as in single-digit growth days and wild dogs flourish, making trips to those garbage piles a threat. Services expected in societies that grow collectively from their wealth are absent here, where there is plenty boasting over growth but few signs of it being applied for the comfort of the general public.

City officials anticipate that by 2020, there will be 40 more people per hectare in Yerevan than exist now, yet even now public utilities are strained with no apparent accommodation for the increase. For example: Buildings rise next to other buildings in interior yards where there is already no access for fire engines, nor has there been noticeable attention paid to improving emergency services though the need is obvious.

While in ways encouraging and also confounding, this Armenia is figuratively and literally rising. To see it through its capital is to see a nation on the move – if perhaps without a foreseeable destination.

And if you haven’t seen it in a while, you won’t recognize it the next time.
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