of Armenian NGOs in regard with the failure of detection
of electoral violations of 2013 presidential elections
On February 18 2013, Armenia held presidential elections that were accompanied with gross violations reported by a numerous organizations and individuals. In this respect, Europe in Law Association and Transparency International Anticorruption Center voice their concern over the reluctance of the Armenian law enforcement bodies to detect criminal cases and the illegal acts tended to conceal the crime.
On 18 February, 2013, the Armenian Non-Governmental Organization Europe in Law Association conducted an observation mission in 14 polling stations in the constituency no 17, which covers the town of Artashat and several of its neighbouring villages. The Europe in Law Association's team of observers worked in these polling stations together with journalists invited by the organization.
In the course of the observation, the Europe in Law Association's team detected numerous cases of electoral fraud, including ballot-box stuffing, multiple voting, abuse of administrative resource, intimidation of and pressures on observers and journalists. On the day of voting and afterwards, the Europe in Law Association's observers made several reports to the police, and the Police in Artashat and the Special Investigative Service have instituted criminal cases based on several of our reports.
One of these cases concerns ballot-box stuffing in polling station 17/5 in Artashat. The witnesses of the crime were observer Narine Esmaeli and journalist Artak Hambardzoumyan. Narine is an American citizen of Armenian origin. She has arrived here through an organization called Birthright Armenia and currently does an internship with Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center.
In this case, some 25-30 young men stormed into the polling station, held the hands of the observer and the journalist while the secretary of the precinct commission opened the ballot box herself for one of the guys to stuff some 400-500 ballots into it.
This case became subject of examination by the Special Investigative Service by investigator Gorik Hovakimyan. Narine Esmaeili was invited to give testimony, which she did in the presence of Tigran Yegoryan, advocate and member of Europe in Law Association. Investigation was accompanied by aggressive behavior, vocal intimidation and changing of words by the investigator, attempting to hinder the witness's efforts to provide the true picture of what happened at precinct 17/05 on the Election Day.
Since attorneys are entitled to collect evidence, including by means of recordings under Article 18 of the Law on Advocacy and it was critical to collect evidence on unlawful investigation practice, Tigran Yegoryan recorded the interrogations.
On 1 March, 2013, on the day of cross examination of Narine Esmaeili with the secretary of the precinct electoral commission, the investigator Hovakimyan started an argument with Tigran Yegoryan over the necessity and lawfulness of recording the proceedings. Narine's representative substantiated his right under Armenian law, while the investigator could not prove the absence of such a right.
After arguing with him for about 40 minutes the investigator went out of the room and came back with the Head of the Service, Andranik Mirzoyan who prohibited the representative to record the interrogation in very rude terms by telling one of his investigators (there were 5 of them in the room) to throw his recorder into the toilet. He then did not even wait for his order to be carried out but he himself snatched the recorder from Tigran Yegoryan's hand and threw it into the shelf in that room. Later, one of the investigators took it out secretly and erased the recordings. Nevertheless, part of these recordings are currently at Europe in Law Association's disposal.
The process of investigation of this particular case indicates the reluctance of the Special Investigative Service to detect the electoral violation and punish the act of crime. Instead, representatives of this entity are engaged in unlawful processes that create obstacles for effective investigation, put pressure on witness and indicate protection of the potential suspect.
The Europe in Law Association and Transparency International Anti-Corruption Centre deplore the unlawful actions of the investigators of the Special Investigative Service and particularly those of Andranik Mirzoyan, the Head of the Special Investigative Service,
We call on the US Embassy in Armenia to interfere and to request assurances from the Armenian government for the security of its citizen Narine Esmaeli.
We further call on the OSCE/ODIHR to pay special attention to the practices of the Armenian law enforcement bodies to investigate and detect the election-related fraud.
We finally call on the Armenian authorities to make sure that all election-related crimes are investigated in a transparent, effective and lawful manner and that the Armenian society is regularly updated on their progress.
Europe in Law Association
Transparency International Anticorruption Center