Monthly Archives: January 2013

Oligarchs, Corruption and Stifling the Economy

Armenia’s first international supermarket, Carrefour, has been planned to open doors since October. There is even space for it in the new mall with signs on the door saying “Coming Soon.” Unfortunately, Carrefour is saying that it might take more than a year, before the doors actually open. The reason is that local leaders keep delaying meeting with Carrefour. Their explanation is something keeps coming up (currently the excuse is the Presidential election), while others say that the local oligarchs don’t want the competition from its cheaper products.

A graph showing an increase in the power of the sugar monopoly from 2001-2011

Armenia’s sugar monopoly has only become worse over time.

One interesting note is that Sargsyan is distancing himself in his presidential campaign from the petty oligarchs that were previously used to guarantee votes. This might be a sign of the beginning of systemic change in the power structure of Armenia, but chances are it’s simply because he doesn’t need them to ensure victory in this election.

And, just to add a tangential story about corruption. Hetq measured the size of the new Tsitsernakaberd highway. They found that the 2km long highway was on average 1.5 meters thinner than it should be. This results in 3000 square meters of asphalt missing, a tidy sum that likely went into someone’s pocket.

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Filed under Economics

Update: Zhoghovourd Newspaper Supporters are Fighting back Against the Freeze of Assets

More than 100 people have marched in favor of the Zhoghovourd newspaper against the court’s freezing of its assets reported earlier (Pictures of the march are available here). The lawyers of the newspaper submitted a motion to lift the lien on their property. The court will decide on the motion by the 2nd.

On the plus side, Reporter’s Without Border’s have moved Armenia up a few notches to 74th in the world vis-à-vis Press Freedom. This is significantly higher than the rest of the Caucuses states with Georgia trailing at 100th. The Armenian Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression also reported improvement in 2012 versus 2011.

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Filed under Freedom of the Press

Armenians Under Attack in Istanbul

A number of Armenians in Istanbul have been attacked lately. These attacks are likely racist hate crimes as one of the victims, an 85-year old woman, was found dead with a crucifix carved into her chest. Amnesty International has called on the Government of Turkey to investigate these crimes as possible racism or potentially be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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Filed under Human Rights

No Azerbaijan, International Law does not allow you to shoot down a Civilian Airplane

Azerbaijan has been threatening to shoot down the first plane that flies to the Karabakh airport for a while. Recently, in an interview with EurasiaNet, an Azerbaijani figure stated that it is both legal and justified for Azerbaijan to shoot down a civilian airplane. I could not let that stand.

Today, EurasiaNet published my response to the interview. I’ll let others comment on how justified it is to shoot down a civilian airplane, but at least I can say that such an action is illegal under international law.

On the linked page are two responses with mine after the one in favor of Azerbaijan’s position (it comes from an Azerbaijani Ambassador; I think it’s fair that they put his response first.). The first response is internally valid, but it dodges the question of shooting down the plane. Whether flights from the Karabakh airport would violate the Convention or not is beyond my legal skills and beyond the scope of my response. What is within the scope (and what started this whole debate) is can Azerbaijan shoot down a civilian airplane and the first response doesn’t answer that question except to say, “I can point to arguments that have already appeared in an article published by EurasiaNet.org.”

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Filed under Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Destruction of Ancient Armenian Structures in Turkey

A new documentary claims that Turkey is destroying ancient Armenian structures and that only 2-3% of the pre-1915 cultural monuments are still standing. If the Government of Turkey is actively destroying these structures, then that’s as bad as Azerbaijan purposely destroying the Julfa cemetery. What’s more likely is that the Government of Turkey is doing nothing to protect the structures and letting them be destroyed by the elements and vandals, which is still a huge shame. It would be a huge improvement in the relations between Turkey and Armenia if Turkey protected these cultural landmarks.   Note that the documentary is in Armenian.

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Filed under Social / Culture

More Warmth from the North

Javakhk-born Armenian MP Shirak Torosyan is now able to cross into Georgia for the first time in four years. Also, Ivanishvili said that he had nothing to do with the recent release of Vahagn Chakhalian. While it’s possible he personally had nothing to do with either of these issues, I bet there are those that want to curry favor from him that are pushing for this abrupt change in policy. Chakhalian has made an official statement calling on Georgia to not discriminate against the Armenian population in Javakhk.

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Filed under Regional Politics

Ill-treatment of Oppositional Youth Activists

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has stepped in and wrote a letter to the President of the Court of Cassation to raise attention to alleged ill-treatment of seven prisoners. These prisoners are youth activists connected with the political opposition and were arrested on August 9, 2011. Because of the alleged police abuse these youth suffered and because of the political undertones, the Armenian National Congress has been organizing protests and have called for their release. The HRW letter details the evidence of the ill-treatment they are alleged to have suffered.

HRW is not trying to convince the Court of Cassation to be lenient or give them freedom, but to inquire why the prosecutor’s office did no investigation into the ill-treatment and to order such an investigation. We should hear the Court’s verdict tomorrow. To be realistic, if the Court of Cassation does not order an investigation, these victims will very likely win if they take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

As a point of clarification, when a human rights person is using the term ill-treatment, it often means torture and generally means cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Both illegal under international law. The reason Human Rights Watch or other human rights people use the euphemism is because only a judge can determine if the alleged actions violate the law.

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Filed under Human Rights