Within the framework of OSCE/ ODIHR Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in 2017 Artur Sakunts spoke about the trends of shrinking civic space in RA18:38, October 2, 2017 | News, Own news
“In the context of joining the Eurasian Economic Union by the decision of RA President Serzh Sargsyan in 2013 and the following constitutional amendments of 2015 have largely restricted the opportunity and geography for the civil society’s effective implementation of activities in the Republic of Armenia both at legislative and practice levels”, stated Artur Sakunts, head of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor, within the framework of OSCE/ ODIHR Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) held in the capital of Poland, Warsaw, in 2017.
In his speech on September 19, 2017 Artur Sakunts addressed the trends of restricting the geography of the civil society activities in the RA. The latter specifically referred to the regress recorded in the defense mechanisms of social, economic, and cultural rights stipulated by the Constitution adopted via December 6, 2015 Referendum, to the limitations on representing public interests in the court instances as prescribed by the RA law on “Non-governmental organizations”, to the risk of oversight over the financial activities of NGOs by the State originally established by the same law, which as a result of discussions was determined to extend only to the NGOs funded by the state.
In the context of restrictions against the observers and mass media representatives by the RA Election Code adopted in May, 2016, Artur Sakunts noted that the Charter imposed a requirement on the observation mission organizations to have a human rights provision and on the Mass Media to accredit a limited number of journalists. In this respect he also pointed out the right of removing observers or mass media representatives from the polling station by the vote of the Commission members as well as failure to entitle NGOs conducting observation mission to appeal the election results or submit other complaints.
With regard to stipulating the right for submission of an application regarding a case of impersonation in the amended Election Code, he stated that in the meantime the RA Criminal Code envisions an article of false report for it, and in his estimation, the fact of only 1 impersonation application during the RA National Assembly Elections of 2017 may also be attributed to it..
Artur Sakunts also touched upon the so-called “fake” observation missions and the cases of violation exerted against the observers and Mass Media representatives, as well as obstruction of their professional activities.
In the context of restrictions against various echelons of human rights institute over the cases of “Sasna Tsrer” group members, A. Sakunts noted that on June 28, 2017 after subjecting “Sasna Tsrer” group members to violence in the court the Group of Public Observers conducting monitoring in the penitentiary institutions was banned from visiting them, moreover, their advocates are subjected to illegal search.
Within the framework of the subject, a reference was made to another risk threatening the activities of the Group conducting monitoring: to the provision initially suggested by the RA Ministry of Justice draft law but later not approved, whereby the Ministry suggested that the Group members be elected not by the Group, but by the RA Ministry of Justice.
At the closing of his speech, Artur Sakunts addressed the restrictions on freedom of assembly, the impunity of police officials that exerted violence against the assembly participants, as well as the anti-propaganda against the civil society representatives especially by organizations fed on Russian sources at the threshold of tentative signing of the EU-Armenia agreement.
Artur Sakunts concluded his speech inferring that the geography of the scope of activities of the NGOs, namely civil society, in the RA is not so much restricted by the RA law on NGOs, the major document regulating the activities of NGOs, but by the legislative norms regulating separate spheres of their activities as well as abuse applied in the practice.
The joint statement of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor and Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation on termination of supplying weapons by the RF in the Karabakh conflict zone was also included on the session agenda.