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The ombudsperson avoids the proper assessment of violations of the rights of LGBT people once again

Every year the Ombudsperson publishes an annual report of their activities in the previous year, as well as the situation of human rights and freedoms protection. The annual report contains an analysis of the existing problems in certain fields, as well as concrete proposals aimed towards resolving those problems.

At the end of Arman Tatoyan’s term in the office, the Office of the RA Ombudsperson published the 2021 annual report summarizing the Ombudsperson’s activities during the previous year and the situation of human rights and freedoms protection in the Republic of Armenia. The report referred to the problems and gaps registered in different spheres of legislation.

Although the report covers a wide range of aspects of public life, the section on the rights of LGBT people is exceptionally brief, the analysis is almost non-existent, and the assessment is very generic.

The report contains only some information regarding discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, but again the coverage is not sufficiently comprehensive. Only two cases are described within one paragraph, without any details or assessments. This approach, naturally, does not present the complete reality of discrimination based on sexual orientation in Armenia. In addition, gender identity-based discrimination was not included in the report once again and as a result, the consequences of the gaps in the legislation on discrimination were not assessed.

However, the Ombudsperson’s report analyzes in detail the RA Constitution and laws, in particular the established provisions in domestic legislation on the protection of rights and freedoms and prevention of discrimination, proving that hate crimes based on a person’s sexual orientation do not affect the classification of a crime or the determination of the scale of punishment. According to Article 63 of the RA Criminal Code, only national, racial or religious hatred are considered as motives to commit an act on the basis of hatred. This means that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are not considered as indicators of a hate crime. However, as the report above states, “discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation is as problematic as discrimination based on sex, race or skin color.”

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people are discriminated against in various spheres of public life, but in this report the status of LGBT people’s rights is limited to only two pages, which is located in the ‘Other Legal and Practical Issues Related to Rights’ section. The rights of LGBT people are presented along with the following issues: legislative-practical problems of organizing the vaccination process, the need to provide street lights, violation of the rules of coexistence due to noise issues, the problem of neutralizing stray dogs, overcrowded public transport and service quality, and other issues that are not of priority to human rights.

It is important to note that this approach cannot be conditioned either by the cases of violations or by the lack of information about them, as many local and international organizations record such violations every year, whilst publishing regular reports. Moreover, taking into account the experience of previous years, Pink addressed a separate letter to Mr. Tatoyan seeking to provide an informative summary on violations committed against LGBT people during 2021, while asking Mr. Tatoyan to include them in Ombudsperson’s annual report. However, none of the 35 violations provided by the organization were referred to. The analysis of the legal process of the cases, which summarizes what rights have been violated as a result of the violations, what has been the response of the law enforcement agencies, what has been the process of the victims’ applications and reports in 2021 was not included either. Moreover, Pink’s suggestion to include LGBT human rights violations in a separate section of the Ombudsperson’s annual program was fully ignored, nearly reinstating that the reported violations were not important.

It should be stated that the Ombudsperson emphasizes the importance of the issue of discrimination and adequate responses to it, noting that this is one of the important steps to prevent discrimination against LGBT people. Meanwhile, Mr. Tatoyan himself avoids presenting these issues in full. With this attitude in practice, the RA Ombudsperson involuntarily becomes an advocate of discrimination, as he creates fertile ground for the expression of discrimination and an atmosphere of impunity through his silence on these issues.

We are hopeful that the new Ombudsperson, who started her office term in 2022, will respond adequately to violations of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people as part of her mission.