State of Emergency in Armenia Incompatible with Democratic Standards; Use of Lethal Force Must be Investigated | Freedom House

State of Emergency in Armenia Incompatible with Democratic Standards; Use of Lethal Force Must be Investigated

Washington, D.C.
The state of emergency imposed by the government of Armenia is at odds with democratic standards and should be lifted as soon as possible, Freedom House said today, urging both the government and protesters to remain peaceful and respect the rule of law.

Following disputed presidential elections on February 19, opposition supporters began demonstrating in the center of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Violence flared when police sought to remove the protesters, and President Robert Kocharian responded by declaring a state of emergency on March 1. Eight people have been killed and more than 100 injured in clashes between police and protesters.  The state of emergency, which prohibits mass gatherings and requires news reports on domestic political matters to include only official information, is due to last until March 20. 

“While the exact details of the  situation are still unclear, a state of emergency that bans all demonstrations—including peaceful ones—as well as independent reporting by the media  is excessive and unnecessary,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “It is incumbent on President Kocharian and President-elect Sarkisian to avoid any further resort to force, to end the state of emergency as soon as possible, and to conduct a full and transparent review of what has taken place since February 19.”

The ruling party’s candidate, Serge Sarkisian, won 53% in the first round of presidential elections, allowing him to avoid a runoff with the second place finisher, former president Levon Ter-Petrosian.  Supporters of Mr. Ter-Petrosian claimed that the ruling party tampered with the vote counting process in order to avoid a runoff. 

According to the preliminary analysis of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the election was conducted mostly in line with Armenia’s international commitments, although “problems with its implementation, especially during the vote count, in some cases undermined the trust of the people.”

“The tragic events of the last days have brought to the surface the simmering grievances within the country,” said Christopher Walker, director of studies at Freedom House. “In the larger picture, it is more important now than ever that the Armenian authorities urgently recommit themselves to the political reform process. We urge the government and the protestors to respect the democratic process and to pursue peaceful dialogue.”

While the OSCE has described the February 19 elections and parliamentary elections last year as improvements over previous elections, Freedom House does not consider Armenia to be an electoral democracy. The country’s 1995 and 1999 parliamentary and 1996 presidential elections were marred by serious irregularities. Presidential and parliamentary polls, in February-March and May 2003, respectively, were strongly criticized by international election monitors, who cited widespread fraud, particularly in the presidential vote.

Armenia ranks Partly Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties worldwide. The country received a 5 (on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the lowest) for political rights, and a 4 for civil liberties.

For more information on Armenia, visit:

Freedom in the World 2008: Armenia
Nations in Transit 2007: Armenia
Countries at the Crossroads 2006: Armenia
Freedom of the Press 2007: Armenia

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Armenia since the country became independent in 1991.

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