In Armenia, the Amnesty reflected on parliamentary election, freedom of expression, including nationalist hysteria and attacks towards Azeri film festival, poor conditions and ill-treatment in Armenian prisons, alternative (to army) service due to conscientious objectors.
Civil society activists attempting to hold a festival of Azerbaijani films in Armenia were subjected to violent attacks and forced to cancel the event on two occasions. On 12 April, dozens of protesters blocked the venue of the film festival, scheduled in Armenia’s second city, Gumri. They physically assaulted Giorgi Vanyan, the organizer and chairman of the local Caucasus Centre for Peace-Making Initiatives, and forced him to publicly announce that the festival was cancelled. Festival organizers reported that the local authorities had harassed and used psychological pressure to dissuade them from holding the event.
On 16 April, another attempt to hold the film festival in the city of Vanadzor at the Helsinki Citizens Assembly (HCA) office also prompted public protests and violence. Approximately 200 people – including students, political party members and veterans from the Nagorno-Karabakh war – gathered in front of the HCA office. They forced their way into the premises, vandalizing office equipment, throwing eggs and rocks and injuring one member of staff. Police officers present throughout failed to intervene to ensure the safety of the staff members or to stop the violence. Despite the HCA’s requests, additional police did not arrive until after the incident. After an investigation, one woman was fined for throwing a stone at the building, but no thorough or impartial investigation took place. The authorities failed to condemn the violence.The Amnesty specifically mentioned the attacks on gay friendly DIY bar and endorsement of such attacks by ARF Dashnaktsutyun MPs and ԷՇ [ESh - Eduard Sharmazanov], spokesperson of ruling Republican party and deputy speaker of the Armenia parliament. If the trend continues, soon ԷՇ related label will rival other top labels on this blog.
On 8 May, a gay-friendly bar in the capital, Yerevan, was attacked. Two people were caught on a security camera throwing Molotov cocktails through the windows. However, police reportedly only arrived at the scene 12 hours later to investigate the attack. Two young men were arrested as part of the investigation, but were bailed shortly afterwards by two MPs for the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation –Dashnaktsutyun party (ARF). They condoned the attack, saying it was in line with “the context of societal and national ideology”. Eduard Sharmazanov, spokesperson for the ruling Republican Party and Parliamentary Deputy Speaker was quoted justifying the violent attack in local newspapers.