OSCE, Council of Europe: amendments to Armenia's assembly law raise serious concerns

STRASBOURG/WARSAW, 02.04.2008 – In a joint legal opinion, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) concluded that recent amendments to Armenia’s assembly law raise serious concerns.
The amendments to the Law of the Republic of Armenia on Conducting Meetings, Assemblies, Rallies and Demonstrations, passed on 17 March 2008, were reviewed by the ODIHR’s Expert Panel on Freedom of Assembly and the Venice Commission following a request from the Speaker of the Armenian Parliament.  
“On the basis of a preliminary assessment, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR Expert Panel on Freedom of Assembly do not consider the proposed amendments to be acceptable, to the extent that they restrict further the right of assembly in a significant fashion”, says the joint opinion.
The amendments tighten provisions concerning spontaneous assemblies, and limit the possibility for decisions on restricting assemblies deemed to pose a risk for public order to be reviewed by an independent tribunal or court. In addition, a provision allowing for small events to develop spontaneously into bigger assemblies – which was considered a good practice example and made the Law in its previous form stand out as progressive – has been repealed.
The joint opinion of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR  was shared with the National Assembly on 28 March 2008, and will be discussed with National Assembly representatives in Yerevan on 15-16 April 2008. 
The joint opinion continues the long-standing cooperation between the Armenian authorities, the ODIHR and the Venice Commission on the legislative regulation of public assemblies.

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant

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