Change in Government and Worsening Human Rights Conditions in Armenia

EREVAN - Former coalition allies, the ruling Republican Party and Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnakcutyun (ARFD) after 7 years have broken and then signed another memorandum of co-operation late in the evening on 24th February.

According to the agreement the two parties share the responsibility for the government program, ARFD gets 3 ministerial portfolios: the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development, Economy, as well as the Ministry of Education and Science, and also nominates two governors.

ARFD was the Republican Party's ally in a number of coalitions formed since 2003 left the ruling coalition in 2009 after the sudden decision of president Sargsyan to normalize relations with Turkey.

The party organized a number of rallies and demonstrations to oppose this move but because of a. lack of supporters was unsuccessful in changing Sargsyan's foreign political course, which later failed due to preconditions to ratify the Armenian-Turkish Zurich protocols in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

In 2012 the party joined the united headquarters of opposition to control the elections and hardly managed to enter the parliament, in February 2013 during the post-presidential demonstrations ARFD announced its support to the opposition movement lead by the first Foreign Affairs minister of Armenia Raffi Hovhannisian (1991-1992), and later joined the antigovernment coalition of four parliamentary opposition factions in 2013.

However ARFD never cut its ties with the president's administration so giving a reason for rumors that it was allying the antigovernment coalition only for sabotaging the possible movements of opposition.

In 2014 due to disagreements with the other three political forces of the anti-government coalition ARFD left it's opposition allies and strengthened its ties with the ruling Republican party and in 2015 fully supported the change of constitution suggested by the president and recognized the results of the disputable Constitutional referendum (which was seriously criticized by OSCE, Foreign observers and the embassy of USA in Armenia).

However the change in the government and the new political document signed during the day didn't become breaking news in Armenia, as all the media and civic associations were shocked about the news of the torture of prominent civic activist Vardges Gaspari, who, since 2007, has been under attack by the police and pro-government forces in Armenia.

Gaspari who was one of the most prominent political prisoners in Armenia after the political repressions in 2008, had been arrested few days before for "opposing the legal demands of the police". He has serious health difficulties, and continuously refused to accept food and water as a protest.

Gaspari was taken to the psychiatric clinic though he’s never been suspected of having psychiatric problems. He was hardly standing on his feet without help, his lawyer Tigran Yegoryan announced to journalists, that Gaspari was beaten and tortured in his cell.

Dozens of human rights organizations and intellectuals released a statement demanding the government to free Gaspari. The news about torturing the civil activist in prison provoked a number activists to start demonstrations in the city demanding the government free, as they said, the political prisoner.

Late at night on the same day the demonstration was relocated in front of the presidential residence in Baghramyan avenue where dozens of civil activists laying on the ground demnded Gaspari’s freedom, but soon all the civil activists participating in the demonstrations were taken to police stations but later were set free.

Karen Tovmasyan

25 February 2016 17:17