Following the fire bombing of a LGBT friendly bar and high profile incidences of gender-based violence, Armenia's human rights record was scrutinized by the United Nations Human Rights Committee earlier this week in Geneva, 14 years after its last consideration before the committee in 1998. Armenia is just one of the 167 state parties that has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
While the two day dialogue sought to address questions regarding the March 2008 post-election violence and corruption in the South Caucasus country's judiciary, much of the committee's focus was concentrated on the treatment of Armenia's LGBT community. Armenia's delegation reportedly largely ignored the LGBT issue during questioning.
@HRHFoundation: Amazingly, #Armenia's delegation addresses everything but #LGBT rights. Something they don't want to talk about it seams [sic]… #ArmCCPR
@Lara_Aha: #LGBT people are discriminated against publicly and the government says it's freedom of expression…quest by committee #ArmCCPR #Armenia #UN
@HRHFoundation: #Armenia general climate is such that #LGBT people are targeted, including by police and political parties #humanRightsCommittee #ArmCCPR
Though Armenia decriminalized homosexuality in 2003 and signed several historic agreements to eradicate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, marginalization of the LGBT community has regularly occurred since, both in Armenia and among its well spread out diaspora.
@pinkarmenia: #Armenia says we have signed several international documents for LBGT rights and they are protected by state #UN #ArmCCPR
The latest incident in May saw downtown Yerevan bar DIY firebombed by members of a growing neo-nazi movement in the country. A popular safe haven for patrons of diverse backgrounds, it also attracted members of Armenia's LGBT community who often remain in the shadows for fear of retribution. Though the government did not put out any statement on the attacks, several high profile elected officials spoke in favor of the bombing and praised the two men arrested in connection with it.
#Armenia condemns all kind of discrimination, what about parliament deputy speaker Sharmazanov encouraging anti #gay violence? #ArmCCPR
@mmkarmenia: @pinkarmenia in fact Armenia always fail to protect #LGBT rights, remember the recent actions in May and not only! #UN #ArmCCPR
@Lara_Aha: if they condemn all kind of discrimination, why didn't they have an official statement condemning the recent DIY attacks? #ArmCCPR
Alyn Smith, an openly gay SNP Member of the European Parliament criticized Armenia on his website for failing to protect the rights of its LGBT community, pointing out that Armenia's poor human rights record hinders its potential chance for EU membership.
“If Armenia wants to join that organisation of nations and take advantage of all the benefits that brings then it will have to start coming up with some advances in rights protections…I realise that recognising same-sex partnerships is a big step for any nation – look at the long and winding road we've walked and are walking in Scotland – but there are steps that really are basics for simple decency in the modern Europe.”
In a note on its Facebook page, the Women's Resource Center of Armenia included the Committee's concluding report which stated that “explanations from the State regarding measures currently undertaken to protect the human rights of these vulnerable individuals were noticeably sparse.”
Armenia's neighbors in and around the Caucasus haven't fared too well when it comes to protecting LGBT rights either. An Amnesty International blogpost recently awarded ‘medals’ to Georgia, Turkmenistan and Russia among others in the “Homophobia Olympics.”