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19 March 2008

2394) Two Letters From Yerevan

Dear Friends,

Most of you are probably aware of the grave challenge posed today to the democratic development of Armenia. The current government has exposed its authoritarian nature by reverting to oppressive tactics in silencing the opposition, and in the process demonstrated its callous disregard for the rule of law and human rights. We ask each and every one of you to TAKE ACTION! It is our duty to make sure that the White House and the State Department are very well informed of where we stand. Specifically, we ask you to do two things.

First, call BOTH the State Department and White House, and express your concern about the recent developments in Armenia. . .

· You should be able to leave a message at both locations. You can reach the White House at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414.

· When calling the State Department, ask for Secretary of State Rice or Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mathew Bryza. You should be able to leave a message for them, as well. The State Department can be reached at 202-647-4000.
Second, please take a moment to also email both the White House and State Department.

· You can email the White House at comments@whitehouse.gov.
· You can email the State Department by visiting http://contact-us.state.gov and Click On "E-Mail a Question/Comment"

. You will be able to submit your email from there.

Below are the points that should be stressed in your phone calls and emails. Please take a minute to look over them. For emails, once you have indicated the reason for your email, you can simply copy-paste the points below into the body of your email.

The current situation in Armenia is no longer about a presidential campaign, nor is it about any opposition party. It is not about stuffed ballots or miscounted votes. It is about violence perpetrated by a government against its own people.

Contrary to official reports, countless eye witness reports and international human rights organizations have established that it was the authorities that began the carnage on March 1.

There is no rule of law in Armenia, and has not been for some years. The recent protests brought about by the presidential elections were a manifestation of years of frustration with the corruption in government and fear of the authorities. Citizens live in constant terror and are intimidated routinely. They are beaten, fired from their jobs and witness the arrest of their family members on a daily basis.
The recent efforts by Mr. Matthew Bryza are most welcome by the American-Armenian community. But his calls to establish a political dialogue in Armenia have fallen on deaf ears. Continuing arrests, terror and intimidation cannot be the precursors to a political dialogue.

Mr. Bryza has called for a roundtable discussion between the major political leaders in Armenia. With almost all of the opposition leadership in prison, in hiding or in the hospital, and with the former President Levon Ter Petrosyan under de facto house arrest, however, there is no opposition left with whom the Armenian federal government can have a discussion.

Time is of the essence. Human rights organizations around the world, including ones in the United States, have appealed for the immediate lifting of the so-called state of emergency and freeing of all political prisoners, but the results have been minimal. It is time for sterner measures to be taken by the United States and Europe in order to have any significant positive impact on the government of Armenia
Europe and the US should ask: is it expedient to support the current government or recognize the one to be formed by the president-elect? Will he be able to govern a people who have made it clear that they do not accept him as their legitimate leader even before his inauguration? He can do so only through ongoing oppression and a state of terror.
The current government of Armenia is taking advantage of the state of emergency to eliminate any and all opposition and to subjugate a vast majority of the population into submission. The repercussions of such a regime will not be limited to Armenia but will most certainly radiate into the southern Caucasus and create regional unrest. It is in the interest of the United States to promote stability in the region by urging the current government of Armenia to end the state of emergency and curb corruption on all levels of government.

Together, let us Save Armenia!
(Name withheld)

=============================================================

Letter to OSCE from some Civil Activists

The current situation in Armenia has a negative impact on the society as a whole. Not only the society is enforced to live in one-sided information blockade, but it is feared even to express an opinion different from the “official information.” According to CEC data about 350 thousand citizens have voted for Levon Ter-Petrosyan in 2008 Presidential Elections. Today all these citizens are publically humiliated, called “mentally sick” and “lost” by the RA acting President and the Prosecutor General. Moreover, these statements are broadcasted through the Public Television which is called to serve the interests of the society as a whole. People are scared that for their yesterday’s vote tomorrow they can appear in police stations, jails, fired from work, or undergo other material and moral loses. One should be blind not to notice the widespread violation of democratic values and basic human rights. While the indirect victim of this situation is the whole society, it should be mentioned that thousand people are direct victims of violence executed by the authorities.


Victims

According to the official information eight people died as a result of March 1 tragic events including 1 law-enforcement officer and 7 common citizens, all young men. The authorities deny the statements by eye-witnesses that snipers have been used at night of March 1. However, it is obvious that most actively resisting youth have been targeted by the snipers. The fact that no Mourning has been announced in Armenia, that the names of seven victims have not been announced through the TV and no single photo of innocent victims has been showed on Public TV raises a lot of doubts. How come the opposition MP from “Herritage” Anahit Bakhshyan was accepted by some families of the victims and expressed her condolences , while no one from the opposite camp was even allowed to approach the funereal. Even the official 1/7 ratio of victims reflects the actual picture of March 1events.

Injured

According to official information 203 law enforcement representatives have received physical injuries of different degrees. As of March 12, 47 of those are still under the treatment. This means that fortunately the condition of 156 injured law enforcement representatives is not very bad. It is natural that all representatives of law enforcement have been transported to the appropriate health care institutions and have received medical help. This is not the case with civilians involved in the clashes. Only a small number of those were taken to the hospitals due to two simple reasons:

Most injured feared to apply to health care institutions, since the investigating bodies visit those institutions and register the injured- in the future persecuting them. Therefore they prefer to overcome the situation at home with the help of medical workers that they know.

Significant part of injured has been directly transferred to Police Departments instead of hospitals.

The Detained
According to the Police statement dated March 12, 764 persons suspected in participation in mass disorder were brought to Police Departments, of which 568 in the marzes and 196 in Yerevan. Taking into account that mass disorders have happened in Yerevan from the first sight it is strange that the number of suspects in the marzes is almost three times higher as those in Yerevan. Actually, in the marzes, where people know each other very well, it is easier to find Ter- Petrosyan’s supporters. The Law Enforcement is not looking for those violating the law, but has openly taken to the appropriate Departments Marz activists supporting Leven Ter Petrosyan. Taking into account that people in the marzes are less protected and the knowledge of laws and their rights is generally not sufficient, which makes it easier to scare them, the violence used here was three times higher.

Arrested
Today the RA Prosecutor General’s Office instead of finding people responsible for eight killings and organizing the mass disorder is engaged in political persecutions. As a result, 100 people are already arrested` mostly members of HHSH (All-Armenian Movement) and Hanrapetutyun (Republic) parties, as well as members of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s central and regional election campaign offices, proxies, MPs, political party leaders and recognized politicians. Typically, most of them are immediately charged with several Articles of the Criminal Code. These are mostly:
a. Article 225: Mass disorder, heaviest punishment 12 years imprisonment;
b. Article 235: Illegal acquisition, realization, keeping, transfer and carrying guns, ammunition, , explosives or explosive devices ,punishment 8 years imprisonment;
c. Article 258: Hooliganism, strongest punishment 7 years imprisonment;
d. Article 300: Appropriation of state power, heaviest punishment 15 years imprisonment
e. Article 316: Violence against the representative of state authorities, heaviest punishment 10 years imprisonment;
f. Article 333: False allegation /applied to the chairman of “Nor Zhamankner” Party Aram Karapetyan/ heaviest punishment 5 years imprisonment

Wanted and Searched
100s of people who one way or another have supported Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s Campaign or participated in public rallies today have to hide and live in constant fear that they are the next. Public Relations Officer of Prosecutor General’s Office Sona Truzyan has stated that the full list of wanted is not publicized based on the interests of investigation.

Fired fro work
Another type of persecution is firing of 100s of people “on the basis of personal application,” but in reality for their political views. This process has started before the elections and has increased currently.

Victims of Tax Terror
The incidence of Tax Terror against small, medium and large entrepreneurs supporting Levon ter-Petrosyan is widespread. The process taking place in the enterprises owned by the family of wanted MP Khachatur Sukiasyan is vivid evidence. Many had to stop their entrepreneurship and the activist of Hanrapetutyun party Marzpetuny Ayvazyan was charged with the Article 188 of the Criminal Code “Illegal entrepreneurship.”

Deprived from Property
It is know that without any legal grounds a lot of privately owned cars have been taken by the police. Up to now those were not returned to their owners. Also, personal belongings of people were taken during the search, while property of political parties and individuals was confiscated by law enforcers without legal grounds during the office and apartment search.

(Name withheld)


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Mar 17, 2008