Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Norwegian Helsinki Committee calls Armenia authorities to adopt anti-discrimination legislation and tackle hate crime

Read also: DIY watershed: one year on since gay friendly bar firebombed in Armenia capital Yerevan

*via the Norwegian Helsinki Committee

One year after the bombing of the DIY pub and violent counter demonstrators attacked a Diversity March in Yerevan, Armenia still suffers from widespread intolerance and discrimination of minorities. The legislation does not include hate crime with intent towards gender and sexual minorities, and the government fails to protect the rights of these citizens. Media is more often used as a tool to build up under prejudice and intolerance, and homophobic statements are frequently used by stakeholders to gain popularity.

- The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned with the development in Armenia, and supports local civil society activists in their struggle for tolerance and respect of all groups in the country, says Secretary General of the NHC Bjørn Engesland.

Women, LGBT-persons, ethnic and religious minorities are under increased pressure in the homogenic society. Any alternative behaviour is subject to public scrutiny from the neighbours to the authorities and might be seen as a threat to the national ideal of a masculine head of the family, ready to defend his motherland from the many enemies around.

Several state officials were justifying the hateful crime after the bombing of the DIY pub, including the spokesperson of the ruling Republican Party. Later the same month, a discreet march devoted to the UN World Day of Cultural Diversity was attacked by a large group of violent thugs, supported even by priests in their traditional black cloaks. The thugs were additionally provoked by the way the event was portrayed in the media as a gay parade. The police were initially protecting the participants of the march, but later advised the attackers of where they had taken refuge. [...]

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee joins the local activists in the aim to remove homophobia and intolerance in Armenia, and urge the Armenian authorities to

- Include civil society activists in the process to develop effective anti-discrimination legislation that also addresses intent and hate-crimes against all minority groups;

- Widely discourage homophobic and intolerant statements by public figures and derogatory terminology in the media;

- Prosecute offenders of hate crime and protect representatives of minority groups and their defenders. 

On 14-15 May, international experts and stakeholders will gather in Oslo for a two-day conference on right-wing extremism and hate crime directed towards minorities in Europe and beyond. The conference is arranged by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the NHC urge everybody who have an interest in the theme to watch the conference live via web here or get updates from the conference on Twitter using the hashtag #REHC2013

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