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State Department’s Human Rights Report Highlights Developments in Armenia, Azerbaijan

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WASHINGTON (A.W.)—On Feb. 25, the U.S. Department of State submitted to the Congress its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008.”

The presidential elections in Armenia, the protests organized by the opposition, and the March 1 tragedy are mentioned in the introduction of the report. Below is the segment from the introduction summarizing the human rights situation in Armenia:

There were significant setbacks for democracy in Armenia, including the worst post-election violence seen in the Caucasus in recent years. After weeks of generally peaceful protests following a disputed February presidential election, the government used force to disperse protestors on March 1-2, which resulted in violent clashes and 10 deaths. The violence ushered in a 20-day state of emergency and a blackout of independent media during which the government severely curtailed civil liberties. During the remainder of the year, there were significant restrictions on the right to assemble peacefully or express political opinions freely without risk of retaliation, and several opposition sympathizers were convicted and imprisoned with disproportionately harsh sentences for seemingly political reasons. Fifty-nine opposition sympathizers reportedly remained imprisoned on seemingly political grounds at year’s end; no government officials were prosecuted for their alleged role in election-related crimes. Despite the mixed success of a politically-balanced fact-finding group established by the government to investigate the March events, the climate for democracy was further chilled by harassment, intimidation, and intrusive tax inspections against independent media and civil society activists.

Much is said in the introduction about human rights violations in neighboring Azerbaijan, as well. See below:

In Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev was re-elected president for a second term in October in a process that international observers assessed did not meet international standards for a democratic election, despite some government improvement in the administration of the election. Shortcomings included serious restrictions on political participation and media, pressure and restrictions on observers, and flawed vote counting and tabulation processes. During the year restrictions and pressure on the media worsened. A media-monitoring NGO reported that during the first half of the year there were 22 acts of verbal or physical assault on journalists, up from 11 in the same period of 2007, with no accountability. Several journalists remained imprisoned on charges that many criticized as politically motivated. On December 30, the government announced that as of January 1, 2009, it would no longer permit Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America, or BBC to continue to broadcast on national television and FM radio frequencies; without these international broadcasters, the public no longer had access to unbiased news on any widely accessible broadcast media.

The full text of the introduction is available at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/frontmatter/118984.htm.

Below are the links to the detailed reports on Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey (the latter is not mentioned at all in the introduction):
Armenia: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119066.htm
Azerbaijan: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119068.htm
Turkey: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119109.htm

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