Armenia: Right to peaceful assembly must be priority amid fresh opposition protests

Guaranteeing the right to peaceful assembly must be the top priority for law enforcement officials in Armenia, Amnesty International said as a new round of demonstrations spread across the country today.

Tens of thousands of people have joined peaceful nationwide rallies after the country’s parliament failed to elect opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as interim prime minister yesterday.

“Today Yerevan, and much of Armenia, is paralyzed. Peaceful demonstrators have blocked major roads with cars, chairs and garbage bins, while airport and Metro staff are on strike in solidarity with the protest movement,” said Amnesty International’s Campaigner for Europe and Central Asia Levan Asatiani, reporting from Yerevan.

“But despite the tense political climate, the demonstrations remain non-violent and well organized and the atmosphere is jubilant. The police presence is sporadic and without interference in the peaceful activities of protesters.

“It is important that authorities continue to facilitate the right of everyone to protest and express their views. Amid this period of political upheaval for Armenia, the priority must be that all voices can be heard.”

Pashinyan last night called for peaceful “civil disobedience” after members of the ruling Republican Party blocked his bid to take over as prime minister from Serzh Sargsyan, who resigned last week.

Some peaceful protesters who took part in anti-government demonstrations last month told Amnesty International they had been subjected to beatings and arbitrary detentions by the police as punishment for their dissent.