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Armenia Aftermath

Four months after undergoing a disputed presidential election, Armenia is still feeling its effects. David Kramer, U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, ended a two-day visit on June 25 to Armenia to discuss ways of addressing human rights concerns and restoring Armenia to the democratic path.

Thousands of Armenians took part in mass protests following incumbent Prime Minister Serge Sargsyan’s presidential win in the February 19 election. Citing government interference and manipulation, civilians in support of opposition candidate and former Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrossian called the election fraudulent and demanded a re-run. On March 1, police clashed with protestors in Yerevan, resulting in the death of at least eight civilians and two security force officers. More than one-hundred-thirty people were injured. Hours after the violent outbreak, outgoing President Robert Kocharian issued a twenty-day state of emergency, suspending public assembly and controlling all independent media.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, an independent human rights monitor, more than one hundred civilians have been charged with offenses related to the March 1 events. While President Sargsyan claims that none of the arrests during the crackdown were related to political expression, dozens of opposition activists still remain in prison due to their involvement in the “mass disturbances.”

“We hope Armenia gets back on a democratic path and stays on that path,” Assistant Secretary of State Kramer said after talks with Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and other senior Armenian officials in late June. Kramer urged Armenian authorities to initiate full restoration of rights of assembly and media freedom, release those detained on politically motivated charges, launch a credible investigation of the events that took place in March, and hold dialogue with opposition leaders.

The U.S. has helped Armenia in its economic goals since its independence in 1991 and continues to support the country’s democratic development. The U.S. calls on the government to seriously address the issues that surfaced during the last election and remedy any inconsistencies with international democratic standards.

“We recognize that there will be ups and downs in the future as well,” Mr. Kramer said. “What we hope to see is that those ups significantly outweigh any future downs.”