23 սեպտեմբեր, 2015 15:38

Human Rights Watch: Armenian Authorities Must Immediately Investigate Beating of War Veteran

Smbat Hakobyan Karabakh war veteran Smbat Hakobyan.

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement regarding the brutal beating of Smbat Hakobyan, a member of the War Veteran’s Coalition on September 21, in Yerevan. In the statement, HRW notes that Armenian authorities must undertake a swift investigation into the beating and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“A member of an independent political group critical of the Armenian government was savagely beaten after a protest in Yerevan, the capital, on September 21, 2015, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should immediately investigate the beating of Smbat Hakobian, a member of the Alliance of Freedom Fighters, and bring those responsible to account,” the statement read.

Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch said that peaceful protesters should not be subjected to violence simply for expressing their views and opinions. “The effectiveness of the investigation into the vicious assault on Smbat Hakobian will be a true test of how seriously the Armenian government takes its commitment to free expression and peaceful assembly,” Denber said in the statement.

Another activist, who was one of the first to assist and administer first aid to Hakobyan said that she found him at a construction site covered in blood. Hakobyan was taken to hospital where he remains in intensive care; he received serious injuries, including broken ribs, damage to his lungs, head and face.

According to the witness, approximately five men had dragged Hakobyan to a gated construction side where they viciously beat him. Activists say that there are video cameras in the vicinity of the construction site and that police and investigators could use them to identify those who attacked Hakobyan.

The HRW statement went on to say:

“The attack on Hakobian is the second on a prominent member of the group in Yerevan in the last year. In late 2014, unidentified attackers assaulted three members who had participated in a series of opposition rallies. No one has been held accountable for those attacks.

“Other protesters have also faced physical violence in the last year. In late June, police used force against demonstrators opposed to a proposed 17 percent increase in electricity rates. Those demonstrations continued to protest the police use of force. In September, police also forcibly dispersed a second protest over electricity costs.

"Armenia is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and has clear obligations under the convention not only to respect the right to peaceful assembly, but also to ensure the security of those exercising that right and protect them from unlawful interference by others.

“Armenia also has obligations to carry out effective investigations into attacks on bodily integrity and personal security and to ensure that police use of force is in compliance with international standards. Those standards limit use of force to situations in which it is absolutely necessary to respond to physical threats to the police or others and then is strictly proportionate and nondiscriminatory.”

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One September 21, Smbat Hakobyan was participating in a protest rally in downtown Yerevan with a number of other activists. They were demanding regime change. A criminal investigation has been launched into the brutal beating.

In December, 2014, Razmik Petrosyan, Manvel Yeghiazaryan, and Suren Sargsyan, all Karabakh war veterans, were beaten by unidentified assailants. At that time criminal charges were not laid as police said that the victims had not filed an official report.