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Verse bezorgdheid geuit op schendingen van de mensenrechten in Armenië

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Armenië-EU-11-380x230A widely respected human-rights activist has questioned the need for constitutional changes in Armenia which the country votes on in a referendum this Sunday (6 December). Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), a leading Brussels-based NGO, says the poll is an unnecessary diversion from “deepening” human rights abuses and the ever-growing “pervasive” influence of Russia in the former Soviet state.     

Als de veranderingen in het referendum van 6 december worden goedgekeurd, zal het huidige presidentiële bestuurssysteem worden vervangen door een parlementair systeem.

Deze stap is echter bekritiseerd door het Armeense maatschappelijk middenveld, omdat zij zeggen dat het president Serj Sargsyan, die zich niet kandidaat kan stellen voor een derde mandaat, in staat zal stellen de belangrijkste presidentiële bevoegdheden over te dragen aan het parlement, waar zijn partij de meerderheid heeft.

Uit een recent onderzoek onder 1,300 Armeniërs bleek dat 60.1% van de mensen vindt dat er geen noodzaak is om grondwetswijzigingen door te voeren.

Fautre, who is director of HRWF, agrees, saying there has been no public discussion in Armenia on the need for changes to the constitution.Instead, rights groups have “continuously” raised concerns about “poor enforcement and gross violations” of the existing constitution by state authorities.

Er zijn ook zorgen over de legitimiteit van de verkiezingsprocessen en mogelijke manipulatie van de verkiezingen dit weekend.

Fautre, a widely respected expert on human rights abuses around the world, said, “There is widespread belief that constitutional amendments have one purpose – reproduction of political power of Serj Sargsyan.”

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In an interview with this website, Fautre says that another “important issue” is Armenia’s decision to join the Eurasian Economic Union, this, after 15 years of increasingly close relationship with the EU, including “significant” economic integration and deepening political cooperation.

Fautre said: “This abrupt political U-turn obviously imposed by Moscow, interrupted a number of legislative processes in the field of human rights and created uncertainty among civil society about the future of democratic processes.”

De huidige zorgen van Armeense mensenrechten-ngo's dateren van de tijd dat het land in 2013 toetrad tot de door Rusland geleide douane-unie en worden, zegt Fautre, ondersteund door dit jaar gepubliceerde casestudies die een breed scala aan kwesties bestrijken.

These include the right to a fair trial, human rights abuses by police, freedom of expression, religion and belief, plus violence against women and violations of LGBT people. One example, according to Fautre, of the “deepening” problems of rights abuses in Armenia came earlier this year in the way the police and authorities sought to repress peaceful demonstrations over energy prices.

Tijdens de straatprotesten werden ruim 200 mensen gearresteerd, maar de meesten van hen werden later zonder aanklacht vrijgelaten. In een afzonderlijke zaak werd een Russische soldaat ervan beschuldigd zes leden van dezelfde Armeense familie te hebben vermoord.

Ondanks dat president Sargsyan het land nauwer met Moskou lijkt te verbinden, hebben dergelijke incidenten, zegt Fautre, de betrekkingen tussen Armenië en Rusland op de proef gesteld wat betreft de mate van invloed die het Kremlin nu op het land uitoefent.

“This is also an illustration,” he said, “of the problems faced by Armenians in the exercise of their right to freedom of assembly.”

Fautre says that both he and Armenian civil society is particularly concerned about the state of the country’s judiciary, saying this is a “big problem”.

There is a general consensus, he said, that a “systemic” problem is the lack of separation between the legislative, executive and judicial powers. Consequently the judiciary is “not independent” and this is a “major obstacle” to sustainable progress in the field of human rights. Fautre said: “Armenian society holds low trust in the judiciary, which is permeated with corruption and remains largely under executive control.” This is illustrated by a poll showing that just 15 percent of Armenian citizens said they had trust in the justice system while 53 percent said they mistrusted it.

“The functioning of the justice system,” says Fautre,”remains one of the weakest links of Armenian governance. Police make arbitrary arrests without warrants, beat detainees during arrest and interrogation, and use violence to extract confessions.”

De kwestie van de onafhankelijkheid van de rechterlijke macht en het recht op een eerlijk proces is besproken door de Armeense ombudsman voor de mensenrechten, Armeense mensenrechten-NGO's, de American Bar Association en de Commissie van Venetië.

In a recent report, the ombudsman described pressure being brought to bear on judges and “double standards” used by the Cassation Court and Justice Council.

Fautre also points to concern voiced by Armenian NGOs who reported, “The distracting root for independence of judiciary in Armenia is the procedure of appointment of judges through which the executive is given the power of control over judiciary.”

The NGOs say the problems will not be fully eliminated by the proposed constitutional reform package the country votes on this week. Similar issues, says Fautre, are highlighted by the Venice Commission which condemned the “lack of a strategy for making improvements to the proposed legislation.”

Fautre said that since 1998, several judicial reforms, including a new criminal code, have been introduced in Armenia, the latest having to be implemented by 2016. “However,” he says, “the crux of the matter is that the Armenian authorities are not ready to foster the independence of the judicial system through legislation. The judicial and legal system is a main instrument to retain power but without its independence human rights violations will always have a systemic nature.”

He says that corruption and “improper influence” on judicial acts remains “pervasive”, adding, “While judges receive ongoing training on the applicable ethical standards and are said to be well aware of them, they persistently fail to comply with these standards.” Although the judicial discipline process is seen as a vast improvement over the pre-2008 procedures, there is a widespread belief, notes Fautre, that the process is often applied unfairly or arbitrarily, in order to influence judicial decisions or to retaliate against certain judges.

Fautre is van mening dat Armenië, een land dat in 1991 onafhankelijk werd van de Sovjet-Unie, nu op een cruciaal punt in zijn geschiedenis staat en balanceert tussen zowel Europa als Rusland.

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