Armenia. Human rights violations continued despite Armenia joining the Council of Europe in early 2001; inter alia the death penalty was not abolished. In addition, President Kotjarjan was criticized for trying to influence justice. In a February trial, one of the president’s bodyguards escaped with a year’s conditional imprisonment for killing a man who was believed to have disrespected the president.
At the beginning of the year, the government proposed a legislative change that would impose censorship on the media and force journalists to reveal their sources. The bill was adjusted after criticism from journalists, but the new proposal was also considered to put too much pressure on the mass media. While the US military arrived in neighboring Georgia to lead the training of anti-terror forces there, Armenia negotiated with Russia on increased arms supplies. During the year, Armenia and Russia agreed that Armenia’s debts to Russia would be written off in exchange for Russian takeover of several state-owned Armenian companies, including arms industry.
In August, President Kotjarjan met his Azerbaijani colleague Gejdar Alijev for talks on the conflict over the Armenian breakaway climax Nagorno-Karabach in Azerbaijan. In the autumn, information came out that a new peace proposal was under discussion. According to Countryaah website, national day of Armenia is every September 21. Although Armenia’s economy had grown by about 9% in 2001, over half of the population was estimated to live below the poverty line and unemployment was high.
Serzh Sargsyan regained the presidential election in February 2013, rising 58.6% at the same time. In second place came Raffi Hovannisian with 38.5%. He refused to accept the election result, which sparked riots in Yerevan and 10-31. March Hovannisian went on hunger strike. It didn’t help, though. On March 14, the Armenian Constitutional Court affirmed Sargyan’s electoral victory. However, the OSCE election observers pointed out that there were many irregularities in the election and many results that contradicted what they had observed themselves. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the outcome.
Police violence against protesters is frequent, and so is impunity. In August 2013, locals demonstrated against the construction of a high-rise building in Yerevan. 26 were arrested and at least 1 of them was given a couch on the way to the police station. In October, the country’s ombudsman stated that the police had acted unnecessarily violently, but no disciplinary action was taken subsequently against the participating officers. In November, police arrested opposition leader Shant Harutyunyan and 13 others as they tried in vain to go to the president’s administration building. They were charged with violence against government officials in office. On the other hand, Harutyunyan and the other detainees could report violent assaults on the part of the police. In September 2013, a visiting EU delegation expressed deep concern over attacks against civilians and harassment targeting human rights activists.
The government’s pension reform came into force in January 2014. It meant that all employees (born after 1974) with an income below US $ 1200 per person. month to pay 5% of their salary to one of two private pension companies. People with salaries above US $ 1200 would have to pay 10% of the salary. Pension reform triggered widespread protests – especially among the higher paid. A survey in March showed that 80% of the country’s IT workers were unhappy with the scheme. The dissatisfaction went, among other things. that no one was sure of the survivability of private companies. Last March, the Constitutional Court knew the forced part of the pension savings for being in violation of the Constitution. The unrest in April led Prime Minister Sargsyan to resign. He was replaced by the chairman of the National Assembly, Hovik Abrahamyan.
In 2013, Armenia had joined the Euro-Asian Economic Union consisting of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. The Union Agreement came into force on 1 January 2015.
In January, clashes between police and protesters came as several thousands marched against the Russian consulate in Gyumri in protest of a Russian soldier who had murdered a family of 6. Police fired tear gas and sound grenades at the protesters who responded with stone. Twenty-one protesters were arrested and released the following day. 9 protesters and 3 police officers were injured.
In June 2015, protests erupted in Yerevan against an announced increase in the electricity price of 6 øre per year. KWh. After a few days of peaceful demonstrations, it came to confrontations with police using water cannons against the protesters. The demonstrations continued until September, when the power company was sold to a foreign investor. At the same time, the government agreed to subsidize the price increase until 31 July 2016.
In December, a referendum was passed on a comprehensive amendment to the Constitution, whose main element was the transformation of the country from a presidential to a parliamentary republic. The amendments had been adopted by a large majority in Parliament in October. In the referendum, 66.2% voted for the changes while 33.8% voted against. However, the turnout was only 50.8%.