Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), today called on the Armenian authorities to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of those taking part in a peaceful protest in central Yerevan.
“Armenia, like all OSCE participating States, has committed itself to protect and promote the fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly, and must fully respect the rights of the protesters in Yerevan to exercise this freedom,” the ODIHR Director said. “The reports of the actions of law enforcement agencies yesterday morning, including the use of water cannons against and the arrest of hundreds of peaceful protesters, raise serious concerns.”
OSCE commitments on freedom of assembly not only guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration, but state that any restrictions on this right have to be prescribed by law and consistent with international standards.
“The law-enforcement authorities have the duty to facilitate peaceful assemblies, and any police measure has to be legitimate, necessary and proportionate,” Director Link said. “All allegations of the excessive use of force or unjustified or indiscriminate arrests should be impartially, thoroughly and promptly investigated to hold those responsible accountable.”
The protests against a looming 17 per cent rise in electricity prices began last Friday, and thousands took to the streets in Yerevan on Tuesday morning. The demonstrators were charged by police and fired upon with water cannon after they blocked a main street in the capital. More than 200 protesters were reportedly arrested, while 14 demonstrators and 11 police were injured. Those detained on Tuesday have since been released. Hundreds of demonstrators returned today to continue the protest.