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UN Official Deplores Rights Abuses In Armenia

Margaret Sekaggya, the special UN rapporteur on human rights defenders
Margaret Sekaggya, the special UN rapporteur on human rights defenders
YEREVAN -- A senior United Nations official accused Armenian authorities of restricting civil liberties and banning dissenting viewpoints from the airwaves as she ended a fact-finding visit to Yerevan on June 18, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Margaret Sekaggya, the special UN rapporteur on human rights defenders, met senior government and law-enforcement officials, judges, lawmakers, as well as opposition leaders and civil society representatives during the five-day trip.

Speaking at a news conference at the conclusion of her trip, Sekaggya expressed concern about Armenia's human rights record and, in particular, "significant constraints imposed on the exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in Armenia."

Sekaggya went on to deplore periodical physical attacks on journalists and rights activists. "These cases would seem to illustrate an apparent culture of impunity in Armenia which impinges upon the work of human rights defenders," she said.

Sekaggya's meetings with opposition representatives in Yerevan focused on the fate of more than a dozen members and supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), who were arrested after the 2008 presidential election and remain in prison.

She was careful not to describe the jailed oppositionists as political prisoners.

She emphasized to Armenian officials the need for "prompt and transparent investigations" into deadly street violence that was sparked by the 2008 presidential election.

Sekaggya further endorsed strong domestic and international criticism of newly enacted amendments to a law on broadcasting. "I would like to add my voice to those who have already expressed serious concerns about the amendments to the Law on Television and Radio," she said.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and his loyal parliamentary majority pushed the amendments through the National Assembly last week despite serious objections voiced not only by local media groups but also by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United States, and Human Rights Watch.