Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts and Closed Borders

Testimony of Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, June 18, 2008

“The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts and Closed Borders”
(the complete text is available here)

[...] In the short term, however, Armenia’s greatest challenge is to strengthen its democratic institutions and processes, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and regain democratic momentum lost after the significantly flawed presidential election in February and its violent aftermath. There had been some positive signs before the election, such as the invitation of a robust election observation mission from OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and certain electoral reforms. But our concerns grew during the lead-up to the vote, when international observers noted a biased media environment, with the state media vilifying former President Ter-Petrossian and other key opposition candidates. Media outlets such as Radio Liberty that provided balanced coverage to opposition candidates faced intimidation and harassment, which continues to this day. The pro-opposition TV station, Gala TV, continues to be investigated, ostensibly for tax reasons, in what is widely seen as a government move to silence coverage viewed as unfavorable to the ruling party.

The election itself was marred by credible claims of ballot stuffing, vote buying, intimidation and even beatings of poll workers and proxies, and other irregularities. Recounts were requested, but ODIHR observers noted “shortcomings in the recount process, including discrepancies and mistakes, some of which raise questions over the impartiality of the [electoral commissions] concerned.” OSCE observers were also harassed in the period following the election.

When peaceful mass protests followed the disputed vote, the United States and others pressed continuously for the government of Armenia to refrain from responding with force. However, on March 1, within hours of formal assurances by the Armenian government that they would avoid a confrontation, police entered the square. Ensuing clashes later in the day between demonstrators and security personnel led to at least 10 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Mr. Ter-Petrossian was taken to his residence by security forces, where he appeared to remain under de facto house arrest for weeks. A State of Emergency (SOE) was declared in Yerevan. Freedom of assembly and basic media freedoms were revoked. Opposition newspapers were forced to stop publishing and news websites were blocked, including Radio Liberty. The government then filled the information void with articles and broadcasts disseminating the government version of events and attacking the opposition. While it was alleged that some protesters were armed before the March 1 crackdown, there have been no convictions to date on such charges.

Mass arrests of opposition activists, especially demonstration organizers, soon followed. Since then, numerous activists have been imprisoned on questionable charges. Some have fled the country while others remain in hiding. Of the cases that have come to court, several defendants have been given harsh sentences for seemingly small offenses. [...]

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

An the Armenian news only talks of the Genocide as usual!! The Diaspora is letting their current brethren die in the meantime.

How about reporting on what Fried said concerning the situation relevant to the pain and suffering of Armenians TODAY.

No one is suggesting that the Diaspora support the current opposition. But how about standing up against the rape and pillage of their homeland by thugs? Where is the Diaspora's support of the youth movement (who today sent out a letter signed by the youth wing of EVERY party, not just opposition party)?

If they hate LTP, then help forge a sustainable and honest opposition, instead of sleeping with whoever will support their blind crusade for US recognition of the Genocide (that will change nothing, btw). There are people that die today from heartless barbarians - not just 100 years ago!

Without a homeland, there will not be a Diaspora a generation from now.

me said...

Ah, the true power of Armenian lobbying finally surfaces. This is what RQ must have been talking about 10 years ago when he told LTP that he was not using diaspora resources/lobbying correctly and that if used sufficiently they could offset any advantages Azeris had b/c of oil. Brilliant.

As for the hearings.I'm reading Fried's testimony about the crackdown, the house detention, the arrests, the media shutdowns, the beatings, the killings, the intimidation, and I still cannot believe it's about Armenia. Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Belarus...anywhere but Armenia. I remember on March 1st that tensions between Palestine and Israel had flared up again, and I remember watching CNN International for any bits of news I could find, and sometimes I couldn't distinguish Gaza from downtown Yerevan.

Someone has to pay for all this, and I'm afraid this is going to turn to another Oct. 27. The more time passes, and the more daily problems start to dominate again, the more apathetic we'll become and less likely we are to hold criminals responsible.

Anonymous said...

Yes, someone should pay. I hope that organizers of the radical opposition are called to the carpet. They created the poisonous atmosphere of hate. They pushed people to dig in and fight.

Listening to anti-Armenian bantering by US politicians in Turksih pockets does little to make any effect on most Armenians. You can only see this through your anti-ARF lenses when you don't realize anti-Armenian propaganda when you hear it.

We do not learn much from our history when we run to support the enemy of our enemy with open arms and hearts. Sad.

More Armenians getting used for others' agendas.

nazarian said...

anonymous at 11:05, your jingoistic rhetoric does not cover the fact that whatever I have quoted is true. You can try to smear the Sharjoum as much as you want. We will still be the ones that are on the right side of the history.

Anonymous said...

"They created the poisonous atmosphere of hate"

yeah, that's it. how dare people stand up for themselves. you are the reason Armos have always gotten killed: a slave with a slave mentality - not scared but actually Angered when the Master is questioned. for you the slaves that speak up are the traitors. how could they rock the boat? don't they see how many crumbs the Masters have given us....?

like always, instead of putting irrelevant differences aside (ltp started it!, no RK started it!, NO, ltp started it! NO NO, RK started it!) and coming together against a common enemy (ltp and rk's exploitation of your ignorance and apathy), the Armenian picks each other apart.

so in magic-land, where the Diaspora wins the panacea of US recognition of the Genocide, turkey gives back Mush and Van, Armos can get together and wait for the next slaughter by a group that will unite to take advantage of the petty greed and infighting that has defined Armenians since noah.

now for the typical and boring response to the hard truth (insert turk-this, unpatriotic-that, yev ayl)...

tzitzernak said...

The Diaspora is exactly that, a Diaspora. But they have come to support the idea of the country, the thought of an Armenian nation more than the country and the nation itself.

The first and foremost role of the Diaspora should be the support of the Armenian people. Whether the disaster is an earthquake for which Diasporans rally, or a government that opens fire on its people and takes away its freedoms.

In this case, when human rights and lives are so obviously being crushed, political affiliations should be secondary. After all, a political affiliation should be secondary to one's own identity. But, most Diasporans have trouble with that.

So, I'm not saying the Diaspora should or shouldn't stand up for any political group in Armenia - that's secondary. I do say that the Diaspora should stand up for the people of Armenia, and if that means going against their own political party, then they should go against their political party.