HANDS OFF CIVILITAS! US and Europe tell Armenian government to stop harassing the respected NGO Civilitas. Better late than never.
28 March 2013

Western Governments have finally taken a firm stand against the harassment by the Armenian Government of the respected NGO Civilitas which has been the subject of an investigation by the Armenian National Security Service for nearly a year. The organisation was established in 2008 by the Former Foreign Minister of Armenia Vartan Oscanian and had quickly established a reputation for serious and innovative work. Last year Oscanian himself was charged with money laundering and the organisation subject to intensive investigation by the National Security Service of Armenia in an exercise that many saw as being aimed at sabotaging Oscanian's political career. Oscanian had just been elected a member of the Armenian Parliament and there was speculation that he would be a candidate in the Presidential election that was held in February. The case is thought to have forced Oscanian to change his plans.

Yesterday the Ambassadors of the US, Germany and Switzerland and other diplomats attended a briefing at the offices of Civilitas in Yerevan during which they praised the organisation for its professionalism. They hailed it as a reliable partner and in unambiguous terms called on the government to stop harassing it and its staff. political editor said in a comment that "this intervention, even if it should have happened long ago, was necessary and welcome. Civilitas had in a short time established for itself an excellent reputation based on a track record of professionalism and innovation. Its work particularly with media and with the involvement of young people was commendable. Oscanian himself continues to be considered a respected statesman by the international community. Western governments have been under some pressure lately for being too soft on the Armenian government and for being too fast in accepting the contested results from last month's presidential election. Yesterday's public stand in support of Civilitas is a message to the Armenian government not to push its luck."


A recording of yesterday's press briefing by Western diplomats is available here.