Today, April 2, a group of about 20 police officers prevented the parents of soldiers who have died in the army during peacetime from holding a protest on the sidewalk in front of the Presidential Palace. The police created a barricade in front of the doors of the Reception of Citizens, Appeals, Complaints and Proposals Office of the RA President's office.
The protesting mothers claimed that they would appeal the violation of their right to assembly to the European Court of Human Rights, stating that the ECtHR has already ruled against Armenia in a similar case before. Recall that on March 31 the European Court found that the Republic of Armenia had violated the Helsinki Committee of Armenia NGO's freedom of assembly, as well as the right to an effective remedy when preventing the NGO from holding a peaceful march and a candlelight vigil in memory of Levon Gulyan, a witness in a murder investigation who died in May 2007 while in police custody.
Meanwhile, today the sidewalk was open for other citizens and demonstrations: at the time of the parents' protest action, a demonstration was being held by ARF-D Youth Union of Armenia and “Nikol Aghbalyan” Student Association in front of the building of the British Embassy neighboring the Presidential Palace. The youth movement presented a claim to the Embassy on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
“We remember and demand, too. We remember [the Genocide], and we remember them,” Anahit Mkrtchyan, mother of Arayik Mkrtchyan who died in the army in 2001, said to the ARF-D youths, pointing at the pictures of the dead soldiers: “We demand that the President meet us, and the murderers be punished for their deeds. We demand that young people like you serve in a peaceful army.”
Speaking to Epress.am, a member of the youth movement said that it was the first time that they heard of the cases of soldiers who have died in peacetime: “They should appeal to the European Court, rather than protest here. If the Armenian judicial system has not done anything since, say, 2001, they are not going to now.”
Meanwhile, the young man assured that if the soldiers had been killed, “the Ministry of Defense would have done something about it.”
“Some of their deaths were their own faults, some of them committed suicide, while [the parents] gathered here claiming [their sons] were murdered,” said he.
After about five minutes of listening to the protesting parents, the members of the ARF-D Youth Union of Armenia and “Nikol Aghbalyan” Student Association left, stating that the issue had nothing to do with them.