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Human Rights Developments

Most human rights developments in Armenia in 1993 were closely connected to the war in Nagorno Karabakh. Azerbaijan's blockade of Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia left Armenia's civilian population in devastating isolation and privation. At the same time, Armenia's assistance to its ethnic brethren in Nagorno Karabakh allowed the latter to capture at least six Azerbaijani towns outside Nagorno Karabakh proper, with severe casualties on all sides.

Electricity, gas, oil and grain-necessary for the basic human needs of civilians in Armenia-were in extremely short supply, the consequence of Azerbaijan's blockade, Turkey's close ties to Azerbaijan, and civil unrest in Georgia. The daily per person bread ration was raised from 250 to 350 grams only in September. Civilians could look forward to electricity for at most two hours per day, which affected the water supply. Armenia's main source of natural gas, a pipeline that runs through Georgia, was blown up regularly, most likely by Azerbaijanis living in the region. The lack of gas and electricity deprived Armenians of heat in the freezing winter.

The human toll of the blockade was reflected in a 1993 survey revealing that 70 percent ofArmenia's population wanted to emigrate before the onset of winter, expected to be worse than the winter of 1992-93, when a rise in deaths among the newborn and the elderly was accompanied by a higher suicide rate and growing incidence of mental illness. The blockade had ruined Armenia's industry, and had reduced its mass media operations to 60 percent capacity.

While its own civilians have suffered from these privations, Armenian government officials have provided much-needed support to Nagorno Karabakh. High-level government officials stated to Helsinki Watch in June that Armenia provided everything necessary for Nagorno Karabakh's economy and security. While Armenia's former minister of defense said that the only military hardware Armenia provided to Nagorno Karabakh was anti-aircraft equipment, U.S. military analysts reportedly believed its military assistance was much more substantial. The former defense minister also maintained that Armenian army regulars did not serve in Nagorno Karabakh, and that the three Armenian conscripts wounded in Nagorno Karabakh and interviewed by Helsinki Watch in November 1992 were "lying" about where they served.

Armenia's criminal justice system was in desperate need of reform, a fact recognized by that country's interior ministry and procuracy officials. There was substantial to anecdotal evidence that criminal suspects were so routinely beaten after arrest that it was considered nothing out of the ordinary; Helsinki Watch did not conduct formal a investigation into this issue, however. Corruption in the criminal justice system was reportedly widespread.

On several occasions, arrests followed peaceful demonstrations, staged mostly by the Self-Determination Association (SDA), a small opposition movement. On February 18, Paruir Airikian, leader of the SDA, was arrested after a peaceful demonstration outside the presidential residence. After another similar demonstration in July, twelve people were arrested, ten were released later that evening.

The Right to Monitor

Helsinki Watch received no reports of threats to human rights monitors in Armenia.

U.S. Policy

The Clinton administration deserves credit for taking steps toward reaching a more balanced approach to the war in Nagorno Karabakh than that of the previous administration. [See sections on Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan.]

A disturbing aspect of U.S. policy toward Armenia during 1993, however, was its consistent unwillingness publicly to acknowledge the fact that Armenia's economic and military support to Nagorno Karabakh had contributed to the egregious abuses by the Karabakh Armenians in their war for independence from Azerbaijan. No State Department observations on the conflict even suggested the critical role Armenia had played in financing Nagorno Karabakh's war effort and the concommitant violations of humanitarian law.

U.S. assistance to Armenia totaled some $200 million in 1993. The vast majority of these funds were used for humanitarian relief, which Helsinki Watch strongly welcomed to counter the disastrous effects of Armenia's economic blockade. Of the $30 million allocated for food for women and children throughout the former USSR, $12 million was earmarked for Armenia, according to Fred Hof, Deputy to Amb. Richard Hermitage. Helsinki Watch believes that all but humanitarian aid should be withheld from Armenia because of Armenia's financing of the war in Nagorno Karabakh.

The Work of Helsinki Watch

Helsinki Watch's June mission to Armenia investigated Azerbaijan's blockade of Armenia and the disastrous effects it has had on the lives of residents there. An op-ed article published in The Los Angeles Times following the mission described the blockade's effects and called on Azerbaijanto end it.

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