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Armenian Law Enforcement Promotes Impunity for Anti-LGBT Violence and Harassment, LGBT Rights Activists Say

The participants of the first Armenian LGBT forum, hosted on October 17-18 by Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK) NGO in Armenia’s Lori province, have since been exposed to online and in-person threats and harassment, in connection with which they have filed on October 23 a formal complaint with the Armenian Prosecutor General Gevorg Kostanyan. The organizers of the “Rainbow” forum, which was aimed at discussing possible ways to fight homophobia in Armenia and to protect the basic human rights of the country’s LGBT community, have not received a response from the Prosecutor’s office yet.

On October 20, as stated in the complaint, various Armenian media outlets published and distributed articles including the picture of the forum participants; subsequently, the comment sections of the publications filled up with hate speech and harassment, including death threats, from a vast number of users.

Pink Armenia recalls that on June 1, 2015, following the commemorations on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, the NGO submitted a similar application to the Prosecutor’s office, calling upon the authorities to investigate the threats and insults against LGBT activists, as well as ensure the community members’ and their supporters’ security. However, on June 12 the group received a response from the Yerevan division of the RA Police, according to which, the law enforcement would not initiate proceedings since they had found no substantial evidence or signs of a crime.

“The Prosecutor’s and Police’s improper reaction to these incidents creates an atmosphere of impunity, and does not prevent further spread of hate speech against LGBT people and their supporters. Our organization does not have the leverage nor is it eligible to stop these threats. Taking into account the above-mentioned facts, we ask you to consider this application and launch appropriate proceedings,” the complaint reads.

In an interview with Epress.am PINK Armenia President Mamikon Hovsepyan said a number of local and international organizations, including diplomatic missions in Armenia, share their concerns about the discrimination and calls for physical violence against LGBT people. The U.S. Embassy in Armenia, in particular, said it is “deeply troubled” by the threats, and expects the Armenian authorities to fully investigate them and protect the rights of LGBT residents and minority communities in Armenia.

“I have been in Armenia long enough, and spoken to enough Armenians throughout the country, to know that violence and hatred are not part of Armenian society and values.  I urge Armenians to reject these calls to violence.  Those who would espouse such strong hatred of people simply for being different do not adhere to Armenian values as I have seen them,” U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills said in an official statement following a visit on October 29 to the PINK office.