ABA Condemns Police Response to ‘Electric Yerevan’ Protests

Calls for Diasporan, International Vigilance

The Armenian Bar Association (ABA) issued the following statement condemning the use of force by Armenian authorities on June 23, when the Electric Yerevan protesters were met with water cannons and beatings and arrests at the hands of the police. It also called on diasporan and international organizations to continue closely monitoring the development of events.

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Security forces backed up by a powerful water cannon used force to unblock Marshal Bagramian Avenue at the end of a nine-hour standoff on the morning of June 23 (Photo: Photolure)
Security forces backed up by a powerful water cannon used force to unblock Marshal Baghramyan Avenue at the end of a nine-hour standoff on the morning of June 23 (Photo: Photolure)

The peaceful march of a civil society must not be met with the barrel of a water cannon. The voice of the peaceful demonstrator must not be muted by the gloved hand of an officer in a ski-mask. And the peaceful exercise of the inalienable freedoms of speech and assembly must not be reduced to [the activities of] “the besieged enemy of the state.”

The Armenian Bar Association condemns, with grave disappointment, the actions taken by the authorities during the early morning of June 23, in Yerevan, as contrary to a state’s obligations to its public. In societies governed by the rule of law, the duty of the authorities in the face of public demonstrations is patently straightforward: to ensure that the manner in which public demonstrations are conducted does not pose a threat to public safety. To be clear, the purpose of policing authorities is to ensure that the manner in which the people voice their message is peaceful—and not to police the message itself.

And herein lies the problem of June 23. The use of excessive force—including water cannons, civilian beatings, and attacks on the press—was wholly unnecessary in protecting public safety during the course of what numerous independent accounts establish was a peaceful demonstration. The Armenian Bar Association first voiced its objections to these acts as they were occurring that morning. It has welcomed, since, the many statements echoing its condemnation issued by a number of international and diasporan organizations. The demonstrations continue, and this Association will remain vigilant in monitoring the situation. We further request that the international and diasporan organizations that have voiced their condemnation of the actions taken on that fateful morning continue to afford due attention to events on the ground.

As the leading global organization of Armenian lawyers, it is incumbent upon this Association to remind government authorities that the police force in a democratic society is not an agent by which the government seeks to control the message of civil demonstrators. Instead, the police force is the agent by which the government seeks to protect citizens and demonstrators as they peacefully voice their message to their government. It appears that, in the early morning of June 23, authorities in Yerevan believed nobody would notice the difference. We did.

The Armenian Bar Association demands an immediate, independent investigation and full, public accountability with respect to the decision to use unreasonable force against Armenian citizens on the morning of June 23.

This Association further reminds authorities that the voice of a civil society spills onto the streets only when that voice is denied access to the institutions of governance itself. This is, at its very core, why true democracy is so absolutely vital to the assurance of peace and progress in civil society: It is the legal mechanism by which the voice of a people assumes rightful ownership of its own destiny. It is also why the injudicious trampling upon the voice of civil society by brute force has been the final miscalculation of the ruling oligarchy.

 

Armenian Bar Association

Harry H. Dikranian, Chair

Saro K. Kerkonian, Co-Vice Chair

Gary T. Moomjian, Co-Vice Chair

Kathryn L. Ossian, Co-Vice Chair

Gerard V. Kassabian, Treasurer

Vanna Kitsinian, Secretary

Armen K. Hovannisian, Chair Ex-Officio

 

Armenian Rights Watch Committee

Garo B. Ghazarian, Co-Chairs

Karnig Kerkonian, Co-Chairs

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Guest Contributor

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2 Comments

  1. Extremely well written article. I am so proud of the people who participated in this protest of making their voices heard and not bowing to the government’s decisions when they don’t believe they are in the best interest of the people. This is the real sign of a country having a chance at democracy– a motivated, determined and active citizenry. More power to you all.

  2. Another nonsensical scolding from afar by 3-piece-suits who just love to lecture those wild, unruly Caucasus Armenians from a vantage point of, you know, highly polished perch of American jurisprudence.
    We in the (West) Armenian Diaspora are so much more civilized and intellectually advanced, aren’t we ?

    Being officers of law, the ladies and the gentlemen who signed the vacuous admonition ought to know that nowhere in United States* would authorities allow blocking of any city street by demonstrators without ample prior notice and after obtaining of necessary permits.
    Nobody in RoA authorities was bothering the peaceful demonstrators in the least while they were at Liberty Square.

    True or False.

    When some decided to take the next step, an illegal act, and blockade a major street without prior notice or permit, they gave the authorities the legal right to use force to remove them. RoA authorities tried to reason with the sitting protesters for 9 hours or so, before resorting to force.
    How do you think police officers in US enforce** the law, if the individual refuses to obey lawful orders of a uniformed police officer ?

    And the ABA is in no position to demand anything from authorities of RoA until it officially condemns the illegal acts*** by the demonstrators of completely blocking a major avenue in downtown Yerevan.

    —–
    * again: I will give one example of how US authorities respond to illegal blocking of a public street by demonstrators.
    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/10/01/500-arrested-after-wall-street-protest-on-nys-brooklyn-bridge/?test=latestnews
    {New York City police say about 700 protesters have been arrested after they swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge and shut down a lane of traffic for several hours.}
    (maybe ABA can republish the admonition they issued to NYPD in that case: ABA did admonish NYPD in 2011, didn’t it ?)

    ** http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/default.asp?Item=1374
    {The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has stated that “…in diffusing situations, apprehending alleged criminals, and protecting themselves and others, officers are legally entitled to use appropriate means, including force.”}
    {The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in its study, Police Use of Force in America 2001, defined use of force as “The amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.” The IACP also identified five components of force: physical, chemical, electronic, impact, and firearm.}

    *** illegal occupation of a public street; theft and destruction of private property of Sanitek.

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