Armenia must drop ‘intimidating’ criminal charges against minority rights activist – UN experts

GENEVA (Aug 11, 2021) – Armenia must stop intimidating human rights defender Sashik Sultanyan, founder of the Yezidi Center for Human Rights, who faces criminal charges for expressing support for minority rights, said today UN human rights experts *.

Experts have called on Armenia to drop charges against Mr Sultanyan, who is accused of inciting hatred and violence in an online interview he gave last year.

“This is not incitement to hatred or violence to raise human rights issues regarding the treatment of minorities,” the experts said. “On the contrary, it is a speech protected by the right to freedom of expression.

“Minorities such as the Yazidis do not pose a threat to national security either,” they added. “We call on Armenia to drop these criminal charges, which seem simply designed to intimidate Mr. Sultanyan and others who defend minority rights. They can also have a chilling effect on other human rights defenders, especially young people.

Experts said the human rights defender was targeted for raising issues relating to minorities in Armenia and for defending the human rights of the Yazidis, an ethnic group in the country whose ancestors settled there in the 19th and early centuries. of the twentieth century after fleeing religious persecution in the Ottoman Empire. .

Mr. Sultanyan is a prominent young activist and former member of minorities in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Armenia’s national security service opened a criminal investigation against him last November, but he was not informed until May of this year. This is an interview he gave to the Yezidinews.am website about the problems of the Yazidis in Armenia. The case was taken to court on August 4 and if convicted he faces three to six years in prison.

People like Mr. Sultanyan and his organization play a valuable role in bringing human rights issues to the attention of the Armenian authorities, ”the experts said. “The government should discuss grievances regarding their participation in society directly with Yazidis and other minorities, and not use bogus criminal charges to try to silence them. “

The three experts are in dialogue with the Armenian government on this issue.

ENDS

* Connoisseurs: Mr. Fernand de Varennes , Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression.

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