Statement On the illegal prosecution of Sashik Sultanyan, head of the Yezidi Center of Human Rights, and the Center’s staff by Armenia’s National Security Service
At around 17:00 on 20 May 2021, several investigators and criminal intelligence officers of the Republic of Armenia National Security Service visited the residence of Sashik Sultanyan, head of the Yezidi Center of Human Rights, and informed him that his apartment must be searched on the basis of a court order.
The National Security Service conducting the search prohibited Sashik Sultanyan from using a telephone or calling a lawyer.
On the same day, searches were conducted in the organization’s office, as well as the apartments and vehicles of the organization’s news editor Muraz Shamoyan and volunteer Amo Sadoyev.
Muraz Shamoyan was interrogated on 21 May for eight consecutive hours, i.e. without a break.
During Shamoyan’s interrogation, an investigator by the surname Kasimyan said that “Western NGOs must be closed down.”
The criminal case in the frameworks of which the aforementioned unlawful actions were performed had been initiated on 3 October 2020 in the Investigative Department of the Republic of Armenia National Security Service on the basis of Paragraph 2(1) of Article 226 of the Republic of Armenia Criminal Code.
In the report filed with the Republic of Armenia National Security Service, the person filing the report had claimed that the journalist’s interview with an Iraq-based Yezidi news medium was an act that incited inter-ethnic hatred; the interview had subsequently been published, in which Sashik Sultanyan had presented his opinion and value judgments on the violations of human rights of ethnic Yezidi citizens of the Republic of Armenia. It is unclear why the Republic of Armenia National Security Service did not inherently refuse to initiate the criminal case, because even under the brightest of imaginations, the expression of an opinion based on facts cannot be evaluated as an act inciting or instigating national or ethnic hatred.
Thus, the Republic of Armenia National Security Service, which is supposed to act in line with the spirit and substance of the constitutional principles of democracy and the rule of law, exceeded its authority and arbitrarily interpreted Article 226 of the Republic of Armenia Criminal Code: instead of disregarding what was inherently a groundless report, it decided to start flagrantly persecuting this Yezidi human rights organization and its members.
We consider the criminal case initiated by the Republic of Armenia National Security Service to be a manifestly anti-constitutional act of political persecution of organizations engaging in the protection of human rights, which is characteristic of dictatorial regimes.
Opinions and value judgments presented on the rights of the members of the Yezidi community by a citizen of Armenia based on facts, without any words or actions containing or instigating hatred, could be interpreted as incitement of hatred only if one had special intention, such as that displayed by the National Security Service. The president of the human rights non-governmental organization had only presented the problems. By creating this precedent, the National Security Service will completely hinder any public discussion of problems related to discrimination or human rights of minorities by anyone, including members of national or ethnic minority communities.
We hereby demand that the National Security Service immediately terminate the obviously unlawful criminal prosecution of Sashik Sultanyan and his colleagues.
We demand that Armenia’s Prime Minister conduct proper oversight of the National Security Service, which reports to him; otherwise, this unlawful persecution aspires to leave a disgraceful stigma on Armenia’s already-compromised democratic order.
Statement is open to join
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office
Asparez Club of Journalists
Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center
Protection of Rights without Borders
Analytical Centre of Globalization and Regional Cooperation
Law Development and Protection Foundation
For Equal Rights
Public Journalism Club
Armenian Progressive Youth
“Tumanyan” Law Firm
Armenian Studies “ANI” Foundation
Center for Policy Studies
Women Resource center
Open Society Foundations – Armenia
Non-Discrimination and Equality Coalition
Union of Informed Citizens
"Youth Avantgarde" Public Interest Support NGO
Human Rights House Yerevan
Cinemart Youth NGO
Civic Youth Center NGO