In the early morning hours of January 29, 2019, in Los Angeles, CA, Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School and the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School, in San Fernando Valley were vandalized in what police deem a hate incident and what we view as hate crimes aimed to victimize Armenian students, parents and an entire community of descendants and survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Turkish flags hanging on Armenian School campuses in 2019 is absolutely unacceptable.
For any #Armenian that believes that the domination, degradation and dehumanization by the Turk is a century-old story and that Armenians need to move on, they should stare carefully at the staircases and balconies of our schools—7000 miles and a hundred years away from those deserts.
Many of our grandparents who returned to Armenian towns a 💯years ago during the forced marches of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923, after their walk through the deserts, orphaned, only to see those same occupying flags draped over their churches, their streets and their homes, in 2019, live on, through each of us.
Today’s display of hatred against us Armenians is like spitting on our martyrs’ graves; worse, spitting on the faces of their great-grandchildren, now a century on and a world away from their native hearth.
Hatred—unfettered, indeed unchecked—travels so well through place and time.
There will be a Press Conference today at 5:30PM at Ferrahian High School. We will be there!
We join our partners, ANCA Western Region, AGBU Western District, AYF, and many others, in Solidarity.
ARMENIAN RIGHTS WATCH COMMITTEE—ARWC;
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
The Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC is watching. Once again we monitor the movements of peaceful protestors in Yerevan. Once again we are shocked by the conduct of policing authorities.
Our concern is not which political party is at the helm: we are not a political organization. It is the departure from international norms impacting the civil rights of Armenian citizens that concerns us.
It is not reasonable for the Yerevan Police to blindly throw a flash-bang device into a crowd of innocent bystanders and peaceful protestors, absent a strong governmental interest. And, here, there was no government interest at all supporting such an act.
The protestors were nonviolent. They were unarmed. They were not physically menacing. They posed no danger to themselves. They posed no danger to the police. The tactics utilized by the police in Yerevan today bore no reasonable relation to the circumstances and served no public safety purpose.
The promised reforms have not tempered the arbitrary use of force by the Yerevan police. They have not curtailed the human and civil rights violations brought upon Armenian citizens. They have not bolstered any meaningful support for the rights of Armenian citizens to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
That is unfortunate. The world is watching as our policing authorities attack the fundamental rights of civil society again. And again the Yerevan police demonstrate that they know well how to protect and serve the establishment. We just wish they could bring themselves to protect and serve the citizens instead.
ARMENIAN RIGHTS WATCH COMMITTEE—ARWC;
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
January 9, 2018
After 1.5 million Armenians were murdered and hundreds of thousands of women and children were wasting away without food or water, unprecedented humanitarian relief efforts in the United States provided aid and sustenance to the survivors of the Armenian Genocide. It was not uncommon in those days to hear and even read in print the term “Starving Armenians” as a description of the physical condition of those who had miraculously escaped the Turkish atrocities.
And now, one hundred years after the Genocide and despite the welcome development of generations of enlightened people all around the world, the Daily Show and its Trevor Noah yesterday [see link below] turned back the clock to a dark age when such reprehensible racial epithets as “Dirty Jew” and “Lazy Ni**er” were shamefully uttered, even if in hushed tones. It unnerves and unsettles us deeply to regurgitate these despicable words, even if by way of comparison. They sicken us.
We do so only to illustrate the Daily Show’s and Trevor Noah’s cruel, crass, and callous stunt by referring to Armenians as “Filthy Armenians.” Mr. Noah would never have dared describe Jewish or Black Americans in such despicable and vile ways. Had he done so, Mr. Noah would now be looking for a new job and groaning under the weight of creditable and crushing lawsuits.
While the reproachful reference to Armenians may have been intended to coax a laugh from the audience by ridiculing President Trump’s self-proclaimed genius and tolerance, the Armenian Rights Watch Committee of the Armenian Bar Association condemns such affront and slander. To make matters worse, the Daily Show thought it would be neat to add a chirpy laugh track to accompany the scandalous expression.
The Daily Show and Trevor Noah would be wise to issue a retraction and an apology. It would be a good start but not nearly enough to unring the bell of hatred and insensitivity which tolled terribly last night.
The following is the Armenian Bar Association’s Letter to The Daily Show:
ARMENIAN RIGHTS WATCH COMMITTEE
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
The Armenian Rights Watch Committee (ARWC) of the Armenian Bar Association is greatly concerned by the intention to go on strike recently announced by a group of attorneys in Armenia. We find this a regrettable turn of events based on the facts as we understand them.
First, we note that courtroom security personnel throughout Armenia, tasked with the responsibility of keeping chambers of justice safe, have a number of appropriate tools at their disposal in undertaking their important duties.
That said, when confronting members of the bar at the gates of justice, it should be appreciated that lawyers are “officers of the court” irrespective of the side of the aisle from which they carry out their duties: prosecution or defense, plaintiff or defendant. The role of security personnel in courthouses is to promote respect for the administration of justice and uphold the respect that officers of the court and the court itself deserve. This role is a fundamental tenet of any modern, functioning justice system.
We understand, of course, that there should be reasonable safeguards to promote security. With respect to courtroom access, we do note that in most countries all persons entering courthouse facilities, along with all items carried by them, are subject to appropriate screening and search by security personnel. Certainly, persons may be requested to provide identification and to state the nature of their business in the courthouse. Anyone refusing to cooperate with these security measures is understandably denied entrance to the courthouse.
However, the ARWC cautions that the practices of police in courthouses across Armenia must be executed with access to justice in mind—and should be weary of overreaching under color of law. Security measures must respect an uninterrupted “right to counsel” of incarcerated citizens of Armenia who, of course, remain innocent until proven guilty. It is undeniable that, for attorneys to provide “effective assistance of counsel,” they often must move back and forth between the jails and the courts. To be fair, the onus to provide such facility to legal counsel—without unreasonable hindrance—falls squarely on the shoulders of law enforcement, whether courtroom security personnel and/or jailhouse staff.
The possibility of overplaying the security card is real, even where it may not be intentional: it is easy to understand how a lawyer may be hindered by security personnel who, while implementing courtroom security measures, unknowingly or unwittingly circumvent a litigant’s access to counsel and, in doing so, oppress justice. We think the time is ripe for relevant policies to be reviewed with serious consideration of this tenuous balance and, upon such assessment, clear direction be provided to all parties involved and engaged in the process.
This said, we are concerned about representations made by some of the lawyers who have declared an intention to go on strike. These attorneys, for some time now, have alleged that some of the criminal cases currently pending in Yerevan courthouses have become an excuse to clamp down on lawyers who are entering the courthouse and to subject them to unreasonably invasive searches.
Of course, the ARWC is concerned with any measure that constitutes an unreasonable search of lawyers as they enter a courthouse. To be clear, the protection of confidential client information and the fundamental nature of the attorney-client privilege is seriously compromised when courthouse security is given permission to rummage through attorneys’ case files, for example. There is an important, meaningful balance here—one which many societies governed by the rule of law have been able to embrace and implement in the modern era of heightened security risks. There is surely room to provide safety and protection in the judicial process while not trampling the very legal privileges and principles for which the judicial process stands. And, surely still, we are confident that such balance can be struck not only in Armenia’s legal code—but implemented at the doors of its courthouses and jails as well.
The ARWC remains concerned that the recent turn of events may paint a rather bleak picture: that there is a growing lack of respect for the role of the practicing bar in the justice system. We do hope that the impasse remains an isolated instance which can be addressed and remedied timely by the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic, comprised of well over 1800 Armenian lawyers. Certainly, should we be called upon, we stand ready to assist.
The United States Constitution guarantees to American citizens certain inalienable rights. Foremost among these is the right of Americans to be “free and safe.”
These rights, the very bedrock of American ideals, do not end the moment an American citizen crosses the United States border to enter another land. In fact, the United States Department of State stipulates that it is charged with the responsibility of protecting and assisting United States citizens living or traveling abroad.
Garo Yegnukian is a United States citizen who for the past year has been held in an Armenian prison.
The Armenian Rights Watch Committee of the Armenian Bar Association (ARWC) is concerned at the reported lack of adequate measures being taken by the United States to protect and assist one of its own citizens — Mr. Yegnukian.
In 2009, driven by a passion to help the fledgling homeland of his Armenian heritage, Yegnukian and his family took up residence in Armenia. This move was both a dream and an aspiration to put his vast experience to use in Armenia and to use his entrepreneurial skills to create business opportunities.
In July 2016, when widespread protests were taking place in Armenia, Mr. Yegnukian, among others, was arrested in the aftermath of the peaceful demonstrations. Mr. Yegnukian was accused of what the Armenian government alleged was aiding and abetting militants who had taken over a Yerevan police compound.
The charges against Mr. Yegnukian stem from alleged telephone conversations he had with the Sasna Dzrer (Daredevils of Sassoon) attempting, according to him and his counsel, to de-escalate the crisis in a responsible manner, to prevent further police brutality and to protect lives. These endeavors, the political activism and his support of the protest movement are, it appears, what led him to prison.
The prosecution and court have joined Yegnukian’s case with 13 other defendants and the court has thus far denied 3 different motions to separate his case. With this bundled prosecution, Mr. Yegnukian’s trial will now be tied up for over many years. A request for bail, even for an unprecedented amount, was also denied without articulated reasons for his detention, pending a lengthy multi-defendant trial.
The ARWC hereby calls upon the US State Department and the US Embassy to fulfill their obligations and intervene more directly, proactively and more intently on behalf of its citizen, whose rights have been imperiled if not compromised, as it has done in other similar past cases*.
We call upon Armenia to respect rights protected by constitutional guarantees, freedom of assembly, peaceful protest and free expression. The right to a speedy trial and the dismissal of illegally-gathered evidence or politically-motivated charges are the hallmarks of a true democracy.
Local and foreign observers should attend and report on all pre-trial proceedings and the trial, and by their presence and subsequent reporting, encourage Armenia and the Armenian judiciary to treat fairly and justly US citizens and indeed all people, according to precepts of national and international law.
The ARWC continues to monitor this case and urges its membership and all freedom-loving and rights-respecting people to remain vigilant, to be engaged and rise in support of the human and civil rights of Garo Yegnukian, Esq.
Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
a) Afgan Mukhtarli https://www.state.gov/r/
b) Aya Hijazi https://www.nytimes.com/
Armenian Bar Association and its ARWC call for the authorities to immediately restore order, and guarantee that defendants are afforded full due process without the threat of violence being committed against them and their counsel.
In civil society, a courthouse is hallowed ground. A sanctuary where the rule of law is hailed as predominant above all else. A bastion where a common citizen can seek redress and reclaim his liberty, when a government’s zeal at control, overreaches the bounds of reasonableness and becomes an arbitrary and capricious abuse of discretion. In civil society, a courthouse is not a boxing ring where a government can flex its muscle of brutality against those who seek reform.
The Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC of the Armenian Bar Association has repeatedly and often singularly spoken out about the situation concerning the pretrial detention of those charged in connection with the Sasna Dzrer movement of last summer.
Thursday’s brutality in a Yerevan courthouse, as confirmed by Armenia’s ombudsman and reported and seen on video-footage, where as many as fifteen government security forces used the courthouse as a beating ground of Sasna Dzrer defendants and their counsel is another in a cascade of low points of reckless state action in this ongoing deplorable saga.
The ARWC strongly condemns the overt violence inflicted upon the Sasna Dzrer defendants and harassment of their defense attorneys. As an organization of lawyers, judges and legal scholars, the Armenian Bar Association also vehemently condemns the attack upon the independence of the Armenian judiciary that this assault represents.
Rough-housing and intimidation attacks leveled against legal counsel for defendants, who are officers of the court, is an affront by the Executive branch to Armenia’s entire judicial system and cannot be tolerated.
The Armenian Bar Association and its ARWC call on the authorities to immediately restore order, guarantee that defendants are afforded full due process without the threat of violence being committed against them and their counsel, and urge that prosecutorial authorities bring to justice those who committed these acts, and to account for their actions.
ARMENIAN RIGHTS WATCH COMMITTEE
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
In prior weeks, the Armenian Rights Watch Committee repeatedly called on lady justice to rise and reproach the craven animals owned and operated by Turkey’s President Erdogan for their May 16, 2017 bloodthirsty savagery on U.S. soil against law-abiding protesters in Washington D.C.
While we have not been alone in our demands for the responsible parties to be brought to justice (others demanded too), it is gratifying for us—a bar association comprised of lawyers, prosecutors, judges, academicians and law students—to see our call heeded and decisive action finally taken, as prosecutors filed charges yesterday against at least 14 members of Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail.
The accusations against each of those charged stem from their respective roles in last month’s brutal beatings of peaceful demonstrators protesting Erdogan’s policies during his visit to the U.S. capitol. The charges brought against these bestial assailants include felony assault allegations. To date, and pursuant to D.C. Superior Court arrest warrants, two additional individuals have now been apprehended.
We now call upon prosecutors to invoke relevant and codified exceptions to diplomatic immunities and to commence extradition proceedings against the Turkish fugitives. We further urge prosecutors to forego dismissal of any underlying charges through plea negotiations. In the event that any of those responsible for the carnage opt to accept responsibility for their crimes by pleading guilty, we demand that their guilty pleas to be as to all charges levied against them and that such pleas be accompanied with admissions of any aggravating allegations and enhancements.
We are pleased that our voices of discontent were heard—particularly in the face of the White House’s meager lamentations about what was openly witnessed worldwide as a brutal onslaught carried out by the head of a foreign government’s security detail against U.S. citizens. We look forward to and await the day when commensurate justice will be meted out to those who are found culpable in our courts of law, fairly and equitably—much unlike, of course, courtrooms in Turkey.
To be clear, we shall continue to be vigilant to ensure that law and order are, as they surely must be, restored. Turkey’s importing of insidious anarchy and rabid bellicosity is not welcome in this country. When “guests” on American soil violate and blatantly disregard our laws—in vile and violent ways—we must not cede an inch of our most cherished and protected freedoms of speech, association and peaceful assembly.
Let no one doubt our American–Armenian brand of fierce resolve. We vow to remain engaged, and we will vigilantly follow the progress of these arrests and charges to their just conclusion. To be sure, our engagement and monitoring of these developments will be unwavering every step of the way. It will be—as all things we commit to—fierce. And, on this matter, more so than ever before, we will be at our fiercest.
The Armenian Rights Watch Committee (ARWC) of the ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION welcomes today’s unanimous resolution of the US House of Representatives (USHR) condemning the violence by the Turkish president’s bodyguards, which took place targeting innocent protesters in Washington DC on May 16, 2017.
While we applaud the strong message issued by our country’s legislature, the ARWC continues to maintain our call to the executive branch of our government, as set forth in our earlier statement entitled “…Weakness is not an option with Turkey,” dated May 25, 2017.
To reiterate, our country’s executive branch too must speak, and it must speak out forcefully and in unison with the legislative branch. It must unequivocally declare that our government will not stand idly by when agents of a foreign government at the direction of their leader — as done by Erdogan of Turkey — answer a tyrant’s call for violence of barbaric proportions to be inflicted on US citizens while they exercise their constitutional rights.
The executive branch must mete out commensurate consequences against these thuggish Turkish security personnel who heeded their bellicose president’s orders and, in so doing, they had the unbridled audacity to attack the Capitol’s law enforcement officers. All this while our peace officers were engaged in fulfillment of their sworn duties — to protect and serve our fellow citizens and their rights of “peaceful assembly” and “freedom of expression” guaranteed under our Constitution. All this on American soil, no less!
The executive branch must heed the example of the USHR, and, starting with the White House and on to the Department of State and beyond take swift action to condemn and to penalize the actors who participated in the carnage. It must exact equitable justice against the so-called Turkish republic’s authoritarian head of state and the 21st century’s aspiring sultan Erdogan for the vile disrespect shown by him and at his direction against our nation and its values, on that infamous afternoon of May 16, 2017.
Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
If not for the invincible survival instincts and sheer strength of the Armenian woman, our nation would have long ago been lost and finished. It is she who delivered renaissance, begat family, nurtured community, and kept country. And in return?
In return, she has fallen victim to one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, to one of the least prosecuted crimes, and to one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development. The silence to violence against women and children must be broken. More than 160 countries have laws to address violence against women. The Republic of Armenia is not one of them.
Domestic violence has for too long been a taboo subject in the Armenian community. There is a widespread notion in Armenia and in the Diaspora that domestic violence simply does not exist, that it is unthinkable for an Armenian man to beat his wife. Worse, violence against women is often rationalized: the man was not in his right state of mind; the woman provoked her husband; he slaps her around, so what?; the family unit is not worth destroying over something so trivial. A survey in 2007 for the Women’s Rights Center in Armenia revealed resistance to public discussion of domestic violence – for example, 88% of respondents believed domestic violence is best handled as a private matter rather than through the authorities, and only 29% of abused respondents sought help, in many cases by family members. [No Pride in Silence: Countering Violence in the Family in Armenia — “_blank” https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur54/004/2008/en/]
Over the past few years, the cases of women who have fallen victim to their abusers have received widespread media coverage in Armenia and around the world. Last March, James Estrin penned a piece entitled “Domestic Violence in Armenia: Covering the Crimes That Go Unreported” in the New York Times’ “Lens” blog. [“http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/31/%20anahit-hayrapetyan-armenia-domestic-violence/?_r=0” “_blank” http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/31/ anahit-hayrapetyan-armenia-domestic-violence/?_r=0. See also, “http://www.eurasianet.org/node/%2079651” “_blank” http://www.eurasianet.org/node/ 79651; “_blank” http://armenianweekly.com/2014/10/30/confronting-domestic-violence-armenia/]
According to research conducted in 2011 by the Proactive Society Human Rights NGO, as commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, 60% of female respondents were subjected to one or more forms of domestic violence during their lifetimes, and nearly 40% reported domestic violence within the last two years of the survey. [Femicide in Armenia: A Silent Epidemic; Coalition To Stop Violence Against Women (2016), at 13.] Currently, the only two domestic violence shelters in Armenia are run by the Women’s Support Center and Women’s Rights Center, both of which provide shelter to only 15 women and their children. Both are at full capacity. In the last five years, at least 30 women were killed due to violence from a current or former intimate partner and their children were left motherless as a consequence of these murders.
In 2015, Armenian security forces recorded 784 domestic violence reports, a number which does not take into account those classified as “irreconcilable” families or those not reported at all. Each year, organizations in the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women receive more than 2,000 calls about domestic violence cases, a number which is likely much higher. The impact of domestic violence is summed up best as follows: Serious problems confront the families and households affected by domestic violence in Armenia and its diasporas. It is a crime which destroys the household as a place of safety, sanctuary, freedom and nurturing for all household members. This violence results in tremendous costs to social services, legal, medical and criminal justice systems, as they are all confronted with its tragic aftermath.
Domestic violence affects people of every race, religion, ethnicity, education levels and socio-economic group. It is the single major cause of injury to women. More women are victimized from being beaten than are injured in auto accidents, muggings and rapes combined. The corrosive effect of domestic violence is far-reaching because its effects can remain with women and children for a lifetime, passing from one generation to another. Studies show that children who have witnessed, or been subjected to, violence are more likely to become victims or abusers themselves. Further still, children who witness domestic violence are more likely to experience delayed development, feelings of fear, depression and helplessness. [Hon. Richard A. Dollinger, et al., Exclusive Use and Domestic Violence, NYSBA Journal (July/August 2016), at 22.]
The Current State of the Law in Armenia:
Prosecutions concerning domestic violence are based on Armenia’s Criminal Code, specifically Section 7, Chapter 16 of Special Part (Crimes Against Man – Crimes against life and health). [“http://www.parliament.am/legislation.php?sel=show&ID” “_blank” http://www.parliament.am/legislation.php?sel=show&ID 1349&lang=eng#7.] Murder, battery, infliction of damage to health are covered. Violence against women is not specifically addressed.
What Must Be Done:
1) Passage of Domestic Violence Laws
The adoption and enforcement of national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, in line with international human rights standards, is one of the five key outcomes which the United Nations Secretary-General’s campaign “Unite to End Violence against Women” aimed to achieve in all countries by 2015. [“http://www.un.org/%20womenwatch/daw/vaw/handbook/Handbook%20for%20legislation%20on%20violence%20against%20women.pdf” “_blank” http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/handbook/Handbook for legislation on violence against women.pdf, at 1.]
In 2013, a draft law on violence in the family developed by Armenian NGOs with the participation of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs was rejected as unenforceable. [Nune Hovsepyan, Armenia: Campaigners Push On for Domestic Violence Law, “https://iwpr.net/global-voices/armenia-campaigners-push-domestic-violence-law” “_blank” https://iwpr.net/global-voices/armenia-campaigners-push-domestic-violence-law.] Calls for the passage of this law have fallen on deaf ears. However, there may be some impetus to adopting such a law. The provision is included in the EU Human Rights Budget Support Program “tel:2016-2018” “_blank” 2016-2018, signed between the EU and Armenia, with a budget of 11 million euros.
One of the conditions of the program is the adoption of a stand-alone law on domestic violence this year. The Human Rights Watch’s 2016 World Report on Armenia refers to a visit by Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in which she called for immediate action to combat violence against women and domestic violence, as did the March report by the Council’s Human Rights Commission. [World Report: 2016 — Armenia, “https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/armenia” “_blank”https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/armenia.] Armenia has not become a party to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.
2) Other Measures
Both the 2008 Amnesty International Report and the recently-issued “Femicide in Armenia” report make a number of recommendations to the government of Armenia in combating domestic violence. [No Pride in Silence: Countering Violence in the Family in Armenia, supra note 1, at 39-42; Femicide in Armenia: A Silent Epidemic, supra note 4, at 45-46.]
As October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, the Armenian Rights Watch Committee of the Armenian Bar Association calls upon Armenia’s authorities to heed the call of these human rights organizations—and the muted cries of Armenian women—by adopting a comprehensive law designed to prevent domestic violence and to punish those who engage in such abhorrent conduct. The ARWC further recognizes that, in addition to the adoption of such laws and to ensure that the law is given the teeth it needs to become effective, an adequate budget and resources be allocated so that the laws can be properly and successfully implemented.
The Armenian Rights Watch Committee stands ready to assist the Republic of Armenia to conquer this important frontier of human rights and social development. The Republic must enhance its criminal justice response to violence against women and expand survivors’ access to immediate assistance and long-term resources to rebuild their lives. We all need to forge an Armenia where no one suffers the hurt and hardship that domestic violence causes. Our women and children deserve no less, and so much more.