An atmosphere of impunity is the result of the monopoly of the ruling party of Armenia
During the last week relations between the authorities and the opposition have become tense in Armenia. One reason for the new wave of tension is the beating up of an activist of the movement Kasetsum (Suspension), Artak Khachatryan. Members of the movement held protests a month ago, demanding that the government suspend launching the new law on turnover tax.
Due to well-organized mass protests of representatives of small and medium-sized business and due to the active support of the parliamentary opposition, the government postponed operation of the law to June 1st. It seemed the problem had been solved in time.
However, on February 7th a member of the Prosperous Armenia Party, Artak Khachatryan, was kidnapped and taken to an undisclosed location. According to preliminary data of the Investigative Committee, Khachatryan was kidnapped in Yerevan by three armed masked men. Khachatryan was beaten for several hours. Later he was taken to a lonely street and abandoned there. Later that evening the activist was taken to hospital.
The parliamentary opposition trio (PA, the Armenian National Congress and Heritage) organized protests near the government building and the police headquarters, demanding an instant investigation into the incident and punishment of those guilty. Participants in the protest gave the police a few days to investigate the crime. According to the secretary of the PA parliamentary faction, Naira Zograbyan, if those who beat Khachatryan up are not arrested and punished in a short period, PA will raise the question of numerous resignations.
The political council of PA demanded an investigation into this and other cases of attacking political and social activists: “We believe that the top authorities of the country should be blamed for the current bandit atmosphere and outrage in the country, and are responsible for the incidents. Instead of solving the accumulating problems, the government is kidnapping and beating its opponents.”
Officials criticized violence, but prime minister Ovik Abramyan characterized the statement of PA as a snap and emotional judgment; the press secretary of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, vice-speaker Edward Sharmazanov, found the accusations against the authorities unacceptable: “If PA has evidence, it should show it. I recommend they await the results of the investigation, rather than making emotional statements.”
It is true that PA has no facts or evidence that the authorities stand behind the scandalous incident. However, the party has put the officials in a difficult situation: if those who are guilty are not found and punished, it will turn out that the government supervises violence.
The politicization of the case is interesting. The kidnapping and beating of a member of PA and one of the leaders of the Kasetsum Movement, who have economic demands, have political grounds, as he is not a representative of the criminal world.
Cases of violence against political and social activists have become frequent. In December 2014 a group of 8-9 people attacked members of the board of the Union of Veterans, an organization which cooperates with the opposition – Ramzik Petrosyan and Manvel Yegiazaryan. The next day, several unknown men in masks beat up another representative of the Union of Veterans, Suren Sargsyan. The criminals haven’t been found yet. Another victim was the secretary of the parliamentary faction of the ANC, the vice chairman of the ANC, Aram Manukyan, who was beaten up near his house. As a result of an investigation, the suspect in the attack on the MP, Arshak Svazyan, was released under an undertaking not to leave the city.
These and other cases of violence, which have a political background, are the results of the internal political situation which has formed, when the ruling RPA has a political and economic monopoly, and it enables the authorities to ignore their opponents, as well as encourage an atmosphere of impunity in society.