Monthly Archives: July 2012

Lesson Number 10 Million on how to Alienate the Diaspora

Gather ‘round children while you read about this beautiful tale of a nightmare scenario for a Diasporan that wanted to live in lovely Hayastan. The short of it is this person got swindled in every way imaginable by a private citizen, a judge, the police, and maybe even the President’s office. This story is almost Kafkaesque (yes I went there) in how powerless the Diasporan is described, especially with the possibility that the swindler can sue the Diasporan for an additional $40,000, which the Diasporan didn’t pay when the fraud came to light.

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Pictures: Khor Virap, Noravank, and new and “aged” Wine

I’m still behind in processing photos, but here is the next batch of photos from Khor Virap, Noravank, and the Areni region.

  • Khor Virap (literally “Deep Pit”) is the small church complex built around the hole that St. Gregory the Illuminator was kept in for 13 years. St. Gregory is the one credited with bringing Christianity to Armenia (and as every Armenian points out, Armenia was the first Christian nation).
  • Noravank, (literally “New Monastery”) was built in the 1300s and is impressively complete. One reason may be that some of the figures that decorate the buildings were made up in a slightly Islamic style with the hope that any invading soldiers were uneducated and would think that the complex was to their religion and wouldn’t damage it.
  • Areni village is known for their wine. The winery we went to had some decent cherry and pomegranate wines (but not grape wines, unfortunately). Interestingly, near Areni is a cave with the oldest evidence of wine production anywhere in the world. Go Armenia!
Khor Virap Monastery

Khor Virap Monastery

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Radio Silence

I apologize for the quiet activity lately. Starting this week, I am volunteering in the Department of Law at the American University of Armenia. I’ll be here for three weeks until my “forced vacation” from the Defender’s Office ends.

Also, I’ve been meeting with different people in the US Embassy, Ministry of Justice and local organizations. On Tuesday there was a day long event on Judicial Reform being rolled out by the Ministry of Justice that looks promising. I’ll be chatting with some of these people and will update the blog when I have something valuable, interesting and concrete to write about.

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1000 All-Time Views!

Woohoo! I broke a thousand views!

I know the value of a blog isn’t in the number of visitors but in the quality of the content, but it’s hard to ignore that little ticker. So, here’s a post about the stats of Human Rights Work in Yerevan.

My most popular post is Oligarch vs. Oligarch followed by the Killing of Vahe Avetyan. This isn’t surprising since those posts were linked to by a few blogs. Afterwards, comes my two-album picture post of Gyumri and Amberd fortress and my post on domestic violence.

Unsurprisingly, the far majority of my hits come from the United States (621) and Armenia (239). But, the 48 hits from Canada, 14 hits from Georgia, and 6 hits from France demonstrate that the blog is reaching out to a larger international audience.

The far majority of people clicking into my blog come from Facebook, with some coming from google or other blogs. The majority that click on links leading out of the blog to either my photo album or to Wikipedia (I’m glad I’m at least providing entertaining photos or education through this blog).

So far the life expectancy of Human Rights Work in Yerevan is good (although I’m still itching to change the name). I will continue posting through at least October and possibly indefinitely longer.



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Vahe Avetyan Update and more Oligarch News

Below is an update on what has been going on regarding the killing of Vahe Avetyan. To reiterate: people are angry over the brutal beating and resulting death of Vahe Avetyan, a military doctor, at the hands of the bodyguards of Ruben Hayrapetyan. To increase the pressure for justice, there have been peaceful marches and protests held outside Ruben’s house and his restaurant.

Shockingly, Ruben Hayrapetyan made a personal appearance at one of those protests and hit in the face one of the protestors, a member of the Helsinki Association NGO. The Helsinki Association made a statement against the attack, calling it an attack against human rights defenders and demanding a criminal investigation. Fortunately, the police reviewed the evidence and are taking the case to court.

Unfortunately, the police have made an official statement that Hayrapetyan was not involved in the beatings, removing any chance of criminal liability associated with the killing (unless the bodyguards turn against him). Realistically, the police statement was almost a foregone conclusion, regardless of the calls for a fair trial and criminal punishment for Hayrapetyan from both locals and the Diaspora.

This week, I worked on a memo arguing that the Ombudsman has the right to demand and review evidence from closed investigations and provide recommendations to the Police. I don’t know if the Ombudsman is interested in using that power in this case as so far he has only made one public statement calling on the police to protect constitutional rights.

As an addition to what I mentioned earlier, Hayrapetyan decided to step down from parliament, however his resignation can’t be made official until the assembly official sits which won’t be for a period of time. Protests sought signatures from MPs for an emergency sitting but considering that the Republican’s are supporting him (calling him a “splendid person”) and many MPs are gone on vacation, the 44 signatures were impossible to get.

In completely unrelated news, the son of MP Nahapet Gevorgyan, was arrested this morning for an armed car-jacking, apparently because he didn’t want to wait in line to get gas. Both the son and the father have been involved in brutal beatings before. When will the reign of impunity for the oligarchs end?

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Elections in Artsakh

Update: It looks like Bako Sahakyan won with about 67% of the vote according to the preliminary counting. 

The Presidential election in Artsakh is tomorrow. Yes, the unrecognized break-away nation is having its fifth presidential election. The last election was a landslide 85% victory for Bako Sahakyan. One pollster says that Bako as incumbent has a lock on 30% of the population (with his next competitor only having a lock on 3.5%). In theory, this leaves the majority of the population undecided which, if true, could lead to an exciting campaign. In reality, two of the other four competitors have no hope and defense minister Vitaly Balasanyan has only a slim chance. One pollster gives Sahakyan 75% of the vote.

Unfortunately, campaigning in Armenia and Artsakh is much more about attacking the candidate rather than critiquing their policies. One such “newsworthy” attack was blaming the stuffiness of a campaign meeting in a cramped room for a woman dying of a heart attack. Considering the attacks in Armenia for its 2011 parliamentary election were of a similar vein, it’s not reasonable to expect the campaigning in Artsakh to be much better.

A large number of international observers are expected with the Government of Artsakh sending out requests to NGOs to send observers. In contrast, as of mid-June there were only six local observers registered. While the international observer teams will write reports are the quality of the elections, undoubtedly the heads of this organizations will not recognize the legitimacy of the elections as happened in the 2007 election. Interestingly, the Government of Armenia sought permission to send their own observers. It’s not clear whether the observers will be legitimate or there to ensure the Republican’s guy wins (Sahakyan), or both. The authorities of Artsakh granted permission, and representatives from the Armenian National Assembly and Central Electoral Commission will join other international representatives such as a few Canadian MPs [Edit: and Russian MPs].

While the high number of observers is a good thing, they likely won’t make much of a difference if the election is conducted well but the government has already won through corruption. A former parliamentarian in Artsakh has criticized the Government for using administrative resources to support the incumbent, creating an election that is “free but not fair.” Supporting the idea that this won’t be a fair election, even if it’s procedurally “free,” is the exodus of independent reporters. The primary competitor Balasanyan points to lack of freedom of speech and expression as one of the current President Sahakyan’s failed promises. With the only TV station being essentially just the old state TV with a new logo, it’s clear that Sahakyan has a huge imbalance of power over his competitors.

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Hey Kid, Wanna See a Treaty Body?

The Human Rights Committee is currently undergoing its 105th session and is questioning a number of states on their ICCPR report. The Committee began questioning Armenia yesterday and will continue today in 30 minutes for 3 hours (12pm-3pm Yerevan time). You can grab some popcorn and watch it live here.

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