By Sara Rajabova
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has voiced serious concern over the recent developments in Armenia, namely those that involve the use of force against peaceful protesters in the capital.
Michael Link, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, urged Armenian authorities to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of those taking part in a peaceful rally in the center of Yerevan, the OSCE official website said.
The Armenian police used force to break up the rally on June 23. A sit-in was held in protest against a recent decision to increase electricity tariffs. Police responded by dispersing the crowd with the help of water cannons. Nearly 240 people got arrested as a result of violent crackdown, including journalists from Gala TV, Radio Liberty’s Armenian service, the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper, the Hetq, News.am, and Panarmenian.net news agencies.
"As all OSCE member-states, Armenia has committed to protect and promote the fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly. At present, it must fully respect the rights of protesters in Yerevan. The information on the use of water cannons and detention of hundreds of demonstrators causes serious concern,” Link said.
He added that all instances of the excessive use of force or arbitrary arrests must be impartially, thoroughly, and rapidly examined to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Armenia’s Public Services Regulatory Commission, considering a request from the distribution company, Electric Networks of Armenia, which is a subsidiary of the Russian Inter RAO UES, raised electricity tariffs by 6.93 Armenian drams (about $0.015) on June 17. This caused discontent among a population that believes that the rise in the cost of electricity will lead to higher prices for essential goods and services.
The price hike demonstrations haven’t slowed down over the last several days and the wide-scale protest on Yerevan’s Baghramyan Avenue continues. After the brutal crackdown by police on June 23, activists resumed protesting that evening.
Meanwhile, demonstrators have information about the provocations that are being prepared against them by the police, Armenian media reported.
Activist Maksim Sargsyan told deputy police chief of Yerevan Valeri Osipyan that they have knowledge that government agents in civilian clothing will hand out batons to passers-by on Cascade, a giant stairway in Yerevan. Sargsyan urged the informants to verify the accuracy of the information.