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Public debate on the law on violence in the family, passed in December 2017.  © 2017 RFE/RL Armenia
(Berlin) – The Armenian government made important steps to improve access to palliative care for people with life-threatening illnesses in 2017 and parliament passed a law on violence in the family, but serious gaps in human rights protection persist, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2018.

The authorities failed to bring to justice officials responsible for excessive use of force against protesters and journalists in Yerevan during July 2016 protests. Domestic violence is a serious problem, with thousands of women reporting incidents annually. Local groups reported at least four women killed by their partners or family members in 2017.

“Despite alarming statistics on domestic violence, the Armenian government hasn’t done enough to protect and support survivors,” said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch. “The recent law on family violence is a step forward, but the government still has a long way to go to ensure that women and children aren’t trapped in abusive and often life-threatening situations.”

In the 643-page World Report, its 28th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that political leaders willing to stand up for human rights principles showed that it is possible to limit authoritarian populist agendas. When combined with mobilized publics and effective multilateral actors, these leaders demonstrated that the rise of anti-rights governments is not inevitable.

Human Rights Watch identified other serious human rights concerns in Armenia, including violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In a positive step, the government overhauled the onerous system for prescribing and accessing opioid pain medications for patents with life-threatening illnesses.

Armenia’s ruling party dominated parliamentary and municipal elections in 2017. International observers concluded that the April parliamentary elections “were well administered,” but the polls were “tainted by credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies,” and failed to improve public confidence in the country’s electoral systems.

The government has failed to ensure full accountability for police violence against largely peaceful protesters and journalists during protests in Yerevan in July 2016. Some police officers faced disciplinary action, but no criminal charges were pursued against any officials, despite the gravity of some of the force used. At the same time, authorities prosecuted protest participants and leaders, convicting at least 22 people on charges of using violence during mass disorder and interfering with the work of a journalist.

The authorities also did not effectively investigate the alleged police beating of four men in the court building in Yerevan in June. They were among 32 men facing trial for alleged crimes committed during the July 2016 armed takeover of a Yerevan police station. The men said police beat them in basement holding cells. Some officers alleged to have participated in the beatings remained on duty in the courtroom during the trial.

Thousands of children placed in residential institutions due to disability or poverty faced neglect due to overcrowding. While the authorities have transformed some of the institutions into community support centers, the process has not included all institutions with children with disabilities. Children with disabilities frequently remain in institutions as adults indefinitely, stripped of their legal capacity. Physical barriers and lack of reasonable accommodations at community schools often leave children with disabilities with little or no education.

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