On September 5, 2013 around 22.10-22.20, in the courtyard of 2 Koghbatsi Street of Yerevan, a few steps away from the RA State Revenue Committee, prominent civic activists – Haykak Arshamian, Project Coordinator of Yerevan Press Club, and Suren Saghatelian, Board member of Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, were brutally beaten up.
Haykak Arshamian was attacked from behind as he opened the doors of his garage to park the car. Suren Saghatelian was beaten in the car having no opportunity to get out of it. The assaulters told nothing, beat the activists for several minutes and then left. Haykak Arshamian said that the attackers were 6 or 7 well-built men, but he had not managed to see their faces. Haykak Arshamian also noted that a dark SUV probably followed them when they were driving home with Suren Saghatelian. Haykak Arshamian and Suren Saghatelian were hospitalized with severe injuries – contusions and fractures.
On September 6, around 40 civil society organizations made an open statement in connection with the acts of violence against the Armenian civic activists. The statement particularly noted that Yerevan Press Club and Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, the representatives of which were brutally attacked, are largely involved in the activities of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. Civic activists Haykak Arshamian and Suren Saghatelian are public figures and carry out their social activities within a legal framework, the statement signatories stressed. During the last two days Haykak Arshamian participated in the civic protests against the announcement by RA President Serzh Sargsian regarding Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union.
The authors of the statement assessed the incident as intimidation against NGOs, independent media, public figures and active citizens, who raise voice of protest against the Armenian authorities. “We consider this to be a consequence of the prevailing climate of impunity in Armenia, human rights violations, selective law enforcement, the usual practice of political prosecution, the manifestation of which we have also witnessed during the recent days, as repressions were used against activists protesting the controversial construction work at Komitas Street 5 and in front of the Yerevan municipality. We declare that the full responsibility for this act of intimidation falls on the authorities of Armenia, particularly the law enforcement bodies. If this crime is not solved as soon as possible, it will allow us to declare that this act of violence is directly sponsored by the Armenian authorities.”
The NGOs urged the “the civil society and all the free citizens to remain strong, not to retreat before the hired thugs and their patrons, to continue the struggle for their personal rights and freedoms”.
In the following days, the statement was joined by dozens of civil society organizations and citizens.
Statements, condemning the incident, were also made by several international organizations, including the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks.
“The Armenian authorities have committed to ensure that activists can carry out their work without interference, obstacles, discrimination or fear of retaliation. To honour this commitment means only one thing in this particular case – that the attack on the two activists is investigated impartially and effectively and the perpetrators are found and brought to justice”, said Denis Krivosheev, representative of Amnesty International. CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, also highlighted the need of ensuring effective investigation and accountability. The Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum assessed the attack as an attempt to intimidate those people in the country, who do not agree with Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union, and declared that it will monitor the situation in Armenia and will not hesitate to draw human rights infringements to the attention of relevant bodies.
Kentron Police Department of Yerevan is conducting investigation on the case of attack against Haykak Arshamian and Suren Saghatelian. On September 10 – only on the fifth day following the assault – Haykak Arshamian and Suren Saghatelian underwent forensic examination.