Home / Armenia / Open letter related to the pressure on eco-activists in Armenia

Open letter related to the pressure on eco-activists in Armenia

We, being non-governmental organizations, environmental defenders and human rights defenders of the Republic of Armenia, appeal

to the President of the Republic of Armenia Vahagn Khachaturyan as the guarantor of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, 

the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia Kristinne Grigoryan, 

the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor, 

Aarhus Convention’s Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders Michel Forst, 

asking you to respond within your powers to the situation in Armenia regarding the pressure exerted by the mining business on human rights and environmental defenders, the protection of our clean and healthy environment and the right to live in a healthy environment.

The mining business has launched a campaign against human “green” rights and environmental defenders. As manipulation, the “life” road of Artsakh and the topic of Azerbaijani pseudo-environmentalists who blocked the Lachin corridor, are actively used. The judiciary, in its turn, makes unacceptable decisions towards environmental defenders in favor of business, ignoring national legislation and ratified international conventions, according to which the state bears international obligations. In particular, the following were violated:

1) Article 12 of the RA Constitution. “Environmental protection and sustainable development” 2nd point. “Everyone is obliged to care for the protection of the environment.” The fulfillment of constitutional obligations of RA citizens is hindered.

2) Article 42 of the RA Constitution. “1. Everyone has the right to freely express their opinion. This right includes the freedom to hold one’s own opinion, as well as the freedom to search, receive and disseminate information and ideas through any means of information without interference from state and local government bodies and regardless of state borders.”

3) Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the RA Law “On Freedom of Information”. “A person possessing information, informs the public by immediate publication or in another accessible way the information at his disposal, the publication of which can prevent from the threat to the state and public security and the threat to public order, public health and morals, the rights and freedoms of others, the environment, and the property of individuals”.

4) Article 3 of the Aarhus Convention “Environmental information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice”. “Each Party shall ensure that persons exercising their rights under the provisions of this Convention shall not be subjected to any form of punishment, harassment or prosecution for their activities. This provision is without prejudice to the power of national courts to award reasonable legal costs relating to with litigation.”

In the past, the confrontation of the mining business with environmental defenders, as well as with residents of the affected settlements, was clearly demonstrated. Business has repeatedly appealed to the court with claims that were satisfied. In addition, courts have unjustly satisfied the demands of mining companies to government agencies that, in accordance with the law, imposed sanctions on irresponsible enterprises. As a result of court decisions, irresponsible entrepreneurs have the opportunity to act with impunity, being confident that any social and environmental problems arising from their activities will not affect their interests. 

Violations of human rights are condemned by international organizations, such as the UN human rights special rapporteur, the European Federation for Human Rights, and others. These organizations’ assessments have been submitted to government bodies, but no action has been taken. Now, the target of attacks has become the environmental defender and independent journalist Tehmine Yenokyan.

Tehmine Yenokyan has been facing the mining business because she was defending the interests of the residents of her native village of Gndevaz when it came under the influence of the Amulsar gold mine exploitation project. She still continues to defend the interests of the entire population of the consolidated Jermuk community, calling to preserve the famous Jermuk sanatorium, the clean waters of the Vorotan and Arpa rivers, and to promote alternative “green” development, i.e. everything that the RA government talks about on international platforms. As a journalist and active community member, Tehmine Yenokyan reacts to alarm when people approach her with their problems related to environmental and health dangers. 

In the materials and films published by Tehmine Yenokyan, there are no calls for violence or offensive expressions. The numerous court cases against Tehmine Yenokyan, other environmentalists, and local residents who are opposed to the development of mining business in their community, indicate that Tehmine Yenokyan is being persecuted in an attempt to intimidate and silence active local residents and other environmentalists.

Since 2018, a civil lawsuit has been initiated by “Lydian Armenia” CJSC against Tehmine Yenokyan, in which the company demanded compensation of 1,300,000 AMD for her public judgmental assessments during the campaign.

The Court of First instance partially satisfied the company’s claim completely rejecting the claim for compensation.

On July 22, 2022, the RA Court of Appeals, examined the case in a written procedure and without assessing the financial situation of Tehmine Yenokyan the Court obliged Tehmine Yenokyan to pay 1,224,000 AMD to the company and also obliged her to deny the statement made. Furthermore, the RA Court of Cassation did not accept the complaint brought against the decision of the RA Court of Appeals by Tehmine Yenokyan.

On January 3, 2022, the Information Disputes Council published its opinion № 80 in the case of “Lydian Armenia” CJSC vs. Tehmine Yenokyan. The Council concludes that the decision of the Civil Court of Appeal is a disproportionate interference with Tehmine Yenokyan’s right to disseminate information and ideas. This conclusion can be found at the following link: (http://www.foi.am/hy/IDC/item/2342/%D6%89?fbclid=%20(IwAR0GHuC1SXKMjMJTVqTsLfqZ3RQNbfT0lWZDK9ooFoAJsnp_N7XvAnZwQj0).%27)

Following this, “Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine” CJSC filed a claim for 6,000,000 AMD of damages, relating to a publication in which Tehmine Yenokyan was not the source. The Republic of Armenia, represented by the Government of the Republic of Armenia, owns 21.87% of the shares of “Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine” CJSC, meaning this claim was also submitted on behalf of the RA government.

In the Republic of Armenia, environmental defenders and community residents who defend their right to live in a clean and healthy environment are facing challenges staying alone in their struggle and targeted by mining companies. The government is not effectively protecting the rights and positions of these citizens and has withdrawn from these processes. Decisions made by the Government and approved by the National Assembly can give the impression that it protects the interests of the mining companies. These circumstances demonstrate that freedom of speech is under threat in the Republic of Armenia, as attempts are being made to limit the right to free expression of opinion, oppress and intimidate environmental defenders, so that crimes committed by businesses against the environment go unnoticed and unpunished. This creates threats to the physical and social activities of environmental defenders, creates social tension between different groups of society, endangers the process of protecting the environment in the Republic of Armenia, and represents a significant setback for democratic values and human rights in the Republic of Armenia.

We urge you, within the scope of your authority and mandate, to evaluate the situation and take concrete actions to safeguard the rights of environmental defenders in the Republic of Armenia, specifically Tehmine Yenokyan.

  1. “EcoLur” information NGO
  2. “Centre for Community Mobilization and Support” NGO
  3. “Ecological Public Union” NGO
  4. “Armenian Ecological Front”
  5. “Green Armenia” environmental, educational NGO 
  6. Dalma-Sona Foundation
  7. “Armenian Forests” environmental NGO
  8. “Transparency International Anticorruption Center” NGO 
  9.  “Cinemart” Youth NGO
  10. “Women’s Support Center” NGO
  11. “Communities Finance Officers Association” 
  12.  “Goy” environmental-legal NGO 
  13.  “Women’s Rights House” NGO 
  14. “Yerevan Press Club” NGO
  15. “Pink” human rights defender NGO 
  16. “Yanus” legal NGO
  17. “Helsinki Association” human rights NGO
  18.  “Martuni Women’s Community Council” NGO
  19. “Human Rights Research Center” NGO
  20. “Sexual Assault Crisis Center” NGO
  21.  Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor
  22. “Asparez” journalists club 
  23.  “Goris Press club”
  24.  «Progress of Gyumri» NGO – Civil Society Development Center
  25.  “Spitak Helsinki group” NGO
  26.  “Direct democracy” NGO
  27.  “Youth for Change” NGO
  28. “Pro Paws” animal protection center
  29. Foundation Against the Violation of Law 
  30. “Peace dialogue” NGO
  31.  “Agate Rights Defense Center for Women with Disabilities” NGO
  32. “Armenian progressive youth” NGO
  33.  “The Protection of Rights without Borders” NGO
  34.  “Freedom of Information Center of Armenia” NGO
  35.  “For Equal Rights” NGO
  36.  “Coalition to Stop Violence against Women”
  37. “EcoRight” NGO
  38. “Civil Youth Center” NGO
  39. “Media Initiatives Center”
  40. “Bayazet” Center NGO
  41. “Public Oversight” NGO 
  42. “New Horizons” NGO
  43. “Human Rights Power” NGO
  44. “Success Lady” Youth NGO