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How Pashinyan is playing "human rights card"

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Baku, 27 September 2018 – Newtimes.az

As earlier reported, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic paid a visit to Armenia where she met with the country`s officials. Although the Armenian media made several announcements of the visit before the arrival of Ms Mijatovic, they confined themselves to issuing a brief official statement on the results of the trip. Of course, questions remain about Ms Mijatovic`s impressions of Armenia, her political sincerity as well as geopolitical interests and legal criteria based on which she approached human rights problems in the country. Answers will naturally be featured in her future report on the results of her visit.

According to analyses, apart from "Karabakh issue”, new myths such as "democratic reforms” and "human rights” have become Nikol Pashinyan`s "lifebuoy” for maintaining his power. Pashinyan very well realizes that the hundredth day of his power marks the end of a period of mass political euphoria in Armenia. Although Pashinyan came to power by demand, he has failed to put forward any effective proposal to take the country out of the socio-economic crisis or improve the living standard of his people. And Pashinyan`s populist program of economic reforms has come under serious criticism of experts and his political opponents. The prime minister also knows that Armenia`s long-term hopeless situation makes it attractive neither for Europe, nor for Russia. The statements that Pashinyan has been making since assuming power are becoming completely meaningless because he has succeeded neither in boosting Armenia`s economic and political potential nor in equaling Azerbaijan`s and Georgia`s achievements.

The main reason behind this is the unsolved Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the aggressor country`s self-isolation from all regional and international projects and integration processes. Both the political opposition and the Armenian public require soonest resolution of the problem. A glimmer of hope for Pashinyan is to distract the nation`s attention from internal problems by inflating the image of a "foreign enemy”, neutralize the opposition, reinforce his power in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, find new foreign patrons and create new political myths in order to make Armenia attractive for Europe. This is why ideologemes such as "the leading democratic state in the region”, "guarantor of human rights and freedoms”, "center of democratic reforms” were created about Armenia.

But it is a well-known fact that the rule of law applies not only to intra-country relations, but also to relations between countries. A democratic state must not keep the territory of another state under occupation and must seriously observe its international commitments. If Armenia dreams of building a democratic state, then it must adhere to its international obligations first and withdraw its troops from Azerbaijan`s occupied lands and must not prevent the return of Azerbaijani IDPs to their native lands.

The rapidly changing situation requires Pashinyan to make corrections to its internal and foreign policy, reduce the risks of former presidents` return to power, reinforce his power in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Pashinyan and his team, who took an inadequate attitude towards the West and Russia and who call "carousel policy” typical for Armenia a "multi-vector Armenian diplomacy”, hope to receive military, political, economic and financial assistance from both official Moscow and Western states. If in its policy towards Russia, Pashinyan puts emphasis on the "historic strategic partnership”, the Armenian prime minister uses "democratic reforms” and "human rights” slogans in order to build better relationship with Western states.

But Pashinyan`s "carousel policy” has failed to bring success to his political career. He returned disappointed from Moscow, while in Brussels, heads of European countries and NATO officials did not believe his promises. Although the Armenian media hailed that visit as "an important step towards shaping foreign policy and building promising relations with Western states” and although Pashinyan played "the democratic changes and human rights card” in Europe, he failed to achieve the desired results. The prime minister admitted that although he tried to persuade Armenia`s European partners of his country`s potential and even gave some proposals to democratic institutions, the West did not believe his sincerity. Despite "wide-ranging democratic reforms carried out in Armenia”, Europe refused to render additional assistance to the country.

In this context, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic`s visit to Yerevan had a double meaning. On the one hand, it aimed to assess Pashinyan`s democratic reforms first-hand and console the offended Armenian prime minister, while on the other, Mijatovic tried to measure Pashinyan`s sincerity and define Armenia`s political orientation ahead of the prime minister`s forthcoming visit to the USA.

It should be emphasized that Dunja Mijatovic repeatedly visited Yerevan and met with Armenian officials in her previous capacity as OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Although under the protocol, Mijatovic`s first visit to Armenia as a Council of Europe representative aimed to inspect the state of the women`s rights, gender equality and domestic violence, Pashinyan attempted to use her mission in the "multi-vector diplomacy”. As expected, Pashinyan expressed the new Armenian government`s readiness for closer cooperation with the Council of Europe and said that the Armenian society is now experiencing a stage of "fundamental reforms and internal political progress”. He then turned the conversation to the protection of human rights in Armenia. Pashinyan said that the radical reforms launched in the country after the velvet revolution aim to develop democracy, ensure human rights, build civil society, and expressed Yerevan`s readiness for overall cooperation with the European institutions in this regard. According to his claims, in comparison with the previous government, the democratic environment and effective fight against corruption helped put an end to political persecutions in the country.

But the reality is very different. The miserable state of human rights and freedoms in Armenia in the past few months is yet another testimony to the fact that Pashinyan puts his political interests and bizarre statements well above the interests of the Armenian state and nation. Under Pashinyan, the political opposition, which does not welcome his reform programs and new "multi-vector” policy, has been deliberately weakened to become almost an underground movement, while pressure on parliamentarians has mounted, criminal cases have been launched against previous presidents, and the number of asylum seekers leaving the country has considerably increased.

But unfortunately, Ms Mijatovic, a known public critic of human rights violations, did not express her views on the violation of human rights in Armenia when she visited the country. She also remained silent on the violation of fundamental rights and freedoms of more than a million Azerbaijanis, including their property rights, which continues for over 25 years. Azerbaijan has many times faced such double-standard approaches.

In an attempt to give the wrong impression that Armenia is experiencing socio-economic development and growing living standard, Pashinyan and his team are hiding the statistics on the mass migration from the country behind the statistics on foreign tourism. The official figures provided by the Armenian National Statistics Service suggest that the country`s population decreased 10 percent compared to last year. According to the official information, a total of 788,200 people have arrived in Armenia this year, including tourists and businessmen. According to other sources, 839,000 people have left the country this year. Political analyst Armen Minasyan, who analyzed the difference between these figures, says nearly 51,000 Armenian citizens migrated to foreign countries until September 1, 2018, and will never return. Pashinyan`s promises to carry out democratic reforms, ensure human rights and freedoms and address social problems have failed to stop these people from leaving the country. According to forecasts, the number of Armenian migrants will increase to 80,000 people by the end of the year. A member of every fourth family in Armenia lives or works abroad.

The Armenian opposition and human rights NGOs point out political stagnation and uncertainty in Armenia. Pashinyan`s seizing power was accompanied by the establishment of dictatorship and an increase in the violation of human rights and freedoms. Armenian ombudsman Arman Tatoyan recently warned the government that hatred in the Armenian society and aggression against political opponents already reached dangerous levels.

Although Pashinyan promised to combat corruption, ensure rule of law, protect constitutional rights of citizens, ensure freedom of speech, all these statements have remained populists promises. It`s not a coincidence that Armenia was ranked 80th among 180 countries in the 2018 human rights rankings. The prime minister recently accused Armenian television channels, in particular Public Television, which criticize his policy, of anti-government activities. Director of information and political programs department of Public Television Arutyun Arutyunyan, producer and head of Orakarg news service Artak Erikyan and other journalists were forced to "voluntarily” resign after reports of the Azerbaijani army`s liberation of a large territory in the direction of Nakhchivan.

Another case of persecution of journalists occurred after a leaked phone conversation between the National Security Service director Arthur Vanetsyan and head of the Special Investigation Service Sasun Khachatryan. According to Reporters Without Borders, police searched the headquarters of the Yerevan-based Armenian news website Yerevan.Today, seized its equipment and also searched the home of the website`s editor. Johann Bihr, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, described the search of Yerevan.Today’s premises and the seizure of its equipment as grave violations of the freedoms of speech and press. According to international practice, it is public authorities and not media that are responsible for the leak of confidential information.

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is the cornerstone of the mechanism of the protection of human rights, which is advocated by Europe. This Convention played a crucial role in setting international standards on the protection of human rights and ensuring the inclusion of these standards in national legislations. But, naturally, neither Ms Mijatovic nor Pashinyan spoke about why the Article 3 of the Convention, which reads that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, has not been applied to Russian citizen Dilgam Asgarov and Azerbaijani citizen Shahbaz Guliyev, who were captured in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, or about why they were subjected to inhuman treatment, or about the violation of another captive Hasan Hasanov`s right to life, which is enshrined in the Article 2 of the Convention, and about his murder with special brutality. They also did not mention why the right to a fair trial enshrined in the Article 6 of the Convention was not applied to these persons. In addition, the Article 13 of the Convention, which sets forth the right to an effective remedy, has not been applied to Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev either.

Back in October, 2006, the United Nations adopted the resolution on Cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage, which is an integral part of the human rights and freedoms. However, European organizations have not yet imposed sanctions on official Yerevan for the vandalism attacks on cultural heritage of Azerbaijanis in the Azerbaijani lands, including historic monuments, religious and mass burial sites. By the way 2018 was proclaimed the year of cultural heritage in Europe...

The Armenian prime minister, who is trying to please both Russia and the West, resembles the main character of The Servant of Two Masters comedy by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. When meeting with Russian officials Pashinyan pledges allegiance to Moscow, while he tells Western officials that Armenia`s only way for survival is to integrate into Europe. By the way on September 18 this year he visited the Azerbaijani occupied district of Kalbajar where he ambiguously posed for photographs while playing with baby bears…

Araz Gurbanov

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