18 May 2022
On 3 October 2020, based on a report made by Narek Malyan, former advisor to the the former Chief of Police of the RA, the National Security Service launched a prosecution against human rights activist Sashik Sultanyan, founder of the Yezidi Center for Human Rights, under features of inciting national hatred (Article 226, part 2, clause 1 of the Criminal Code). This report was a part of an aggressive and targeted campaign against human rights organizations and Open Society Foundations-Armenia, the torch of which was actually passed to the RA National Security Service and RA Prosecutor General’s Office.
Wiretapping Sashik Sultanyan and his colleagues, searching the office and apartments, night-long interrogations, extorting testimony from deprivation victims and linguistic-psychological examination did not provide the prosecution with any serious evidence against Mr. Sultanyan. During the trial lasting around 7 months, the accusing prosecutor has not presented any evidence that by speaking about the existing discrimination against the Yezidi minority in the Republic of Armenia, Sashik Sultanyan incited national hatred. And there is one reason: a human rights activist’s speech about discrimination is not a speech inciting “hatred, discrimination, intolerance or enmity”. All the materials presented by the accusing prosecutor in the court concern either Sashik Sultanyan’s human rights activity or are wiretapped records of personal conversations and do not substantiate how Sultanyan incited hatred, what was the possible cause or purpose, and how his speech affected the audience.
Without any proof of Sultanyan’s guilt, the Prosecutor claims that the voiced cases of discrimination are not real. Instead of disclosing the circumstances of concealed crimes and holding the relevant persons liable, law enforcement structures representing the state actually deny that they are real and prosecute the one voicing them. Generally, criminal prosecution in the frame of cases of voicing discrimination directly contradicts the prohibition of discrimination enshrined in the RA Constitution and is a fine example of victimization, with the state apparatus prosecuting the victim.
International human rights organizations, CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, UN special experts on minorities issues, as well as Armenia-based Yezidi and Armenian human rights activists have voiced the inadmissibility of Sashik Sultanyan’s prosecution. This groundless criminal prosecution calls into question the RA authorities’ assurances regarding human rights guarantees in the Republic of Armenia, and the RA Prosecutor’s Office should renounce their behavior entailing gross violations of human rights, which seriously damages Armenia’s reputation as a democratic state.
The new Criminal Code is to enter into force on 1 July 2022, and the charge will presumably be requalified. Article 329 of the Criminal Code establishes liability for public speech aimed at inciting or propagating hatred, discrimination, intolerance or enmity, as well as spreading materials or items for that purpose.
Taking into account that the criminal case materials and facts presented to the Court do not substantiate that Sultanyan’s interview was aimed at inciting or propagating hatred, discrimination, intolerance or enmity, we call on the RA Prosecutor General’s Office to drop the ungrounded charge instead of requalifying it.
Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly Vanadzor
Open Society Foundations-Armenia
Centre for community mobilization and support NGO
Protection of Rights without Borders NGO
Transparency International Anticorruption Center
"Free Citizen" Civic Initiatives Support Center NGO
Helsinki Association for Human Rights NGO
Yerevan Press Club
Human Rights House Yerevan
Direct democracy NGO
Women's Rights House NGO
Progress of Gyumri CSDC
"Union of Informed Citizens" NGO
Journalists' Club "Asparez"
Real World, Real People NGO
"Pink" human rights defender NGO
"Agate" Rights Defense Center for Women with Disabilities
Disability Rights Agenda NGO
Non-Discrimination and Equality Coalition
Public Journalism Club
"Midia-Shangal" Yezidi National Union
"Social worker. support center" humanitarian NGO