Human rights activist Sashik Sultanyan is accused of inciting national enmity for speaking up about violations of the rights of Yezidi citizens residing in Armenia. Whereas, he was simply doing his human rights defender’s work. An attempt is made to hinder his human rights activity.
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor has undertaken the protection of human rights activist Sashik Sultanyan’s rights. HCA Vanadzor advocates Arayik Zalyan and Samson Galstyan defend his rights in the frame of the criminal case initiated in the NSS.
On 3 October 2020, a criminal case was initiated against Sashik Sultanyan in the NSS Investigation Department. He was charged with Article 226 part 2 clause 1 of the RA Criminal Code for publicly doing a dangerous action, i.e., actions aimed at the incitement of national, racial or religious hatred, at racial superiority or humiliation of national dignity, committed publicly or by mass media.
The criminal case was initiated based on Sashik Sultanyan’s conversation with Faris Mshko, who works at yezidinews.com website. During the conversation, he expressed his concerns regarding some problems of the Yezidi community representatives in the Republic of Armenia.They discussed coexistence conditions of Armenians and Yezidis in Armenia, Yezidis’ problems as a national minority, effectiveness of the steps taken to address these issues over the years and current challenges.
This conversation was translated from Yezidi by a prejudiced person who is not even a certified translator, and as a result, the translation was inaccurate and became an issue of speculations. In reality, Sashik Sultanyan substantiated all the raised issues with facts and examples, moreover, in this conversation he also noted the friendship of Armenians and Yezidis in the Republic of Armenia. Whereas, as a result of the translation, the logic of the conversation was distorted and presented in a negative context.
Factually, he is accused of raising problems of the Yezidi community representatives in the Republic of Armenia, i.e., his human rights activity. Both those conducting the proceedings and other participants of the case realize that his activities do not consist of any action subject to any criminal prosecution and are not related to that Article.
This is sheer hindrance to human rights activity, which is simply inadmissible and every such instance should be prevented and excluded.
In 2018, Sashik Sultanyan and his partners founded the Yezidi Center for Human Rights and then also xirat.com Yezidi media platform, which aim at protection of the rights of national minorities, exclusion of discrimination and development of coexistence of Armenian and Yezidi citizens in the Republic of Armenia. In his public speeches, Sashik Sultanyan himself always spoke about Armenian-Yezidi friendship and good relations, therefore, accusing him of inciting national enmity is inadmissible and absurd, to say the least.
The charge is beyond groundless and false.
With these substantiations, HCA Vanadzor advocates made petitions to dismiss the criminal prosecution, discontinue the case and made a recusal to the investigator.
This case, which hinders human rights activity aimed at eradication of discrimination towards national minority representatives, is yet another strike against justice and already-compromised democracy in the Republic of Armenia.
In accordance with the international human rights obligations undertaken, the Republic of Armenia must exclude cases of discrimination against national minorities and their representatives.
In this case, human rights activity aiming to exclude discrimination towards national minorities is hindered with a manifestly groundless and fake accusation.
HCA Vanadzor will pursue termination of this manifestly illegal criminal prosecution, implementation of a fair investigation, and committed to its mission, will contribute to the protection of the rights of national minority representatives and formation of unhindered activity of the institute of human rights.
Let us remind that earlier, HCA Vanadzor initiated a joint statement of civil organizations in defense of Sashik Sultanyan. This case also generated a response among the international community. International human rights organization Human Rights Watch also denounced criminal prosecution against Sashik Sultanyan. Human Rights House Foundation also expressed its concern regarding the ongoing harassment against human rights defenders in Armenia.