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US Department of State report 2021 on LGBT+ human rights in Armenia

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has published its annual country reports on Human Rights Practices, also known as the Human Rights Reports. The reports paint a clear picture of where human rights and democracy are under threat. The country report on Armenia highlights significant human rights issues, highlighting the dire condition of LGBT+ people in prisons and detention centers, as well as the social stigma surrounding people living with HIV. It is stated that people regarded as vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, such as sex workers and drug users, faced discrimination and violence from society as well as mistreatment by police. The report also has a chapter focused on acts of violence, criminalization, and other abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), which is central to Pink Armenia’s work for LGBT+ rights protection.

The chapter on the violations and crimes on the basis of SOGI highlight multiple documented cases of perpetrated violence against LGBT+ individuals. These cases are mainly documents by non-governmental organizations. The report states an overall increase in the number of societal attacks based on sexual orientation and gender identity during 2021, highlighting how in most cases there was no official action to investigate or punish the perpetrators. Pink Armenia’s documented cases are also included in the report. This concerns 28 cases of human rights violations from January to August 2020, which include 12 incidents of domestic violence. The report also notes an overall reluctancy of reporting the cases to the police, as there is a significant lack of trust that the law enforcement would properly examine and investigate the reported crimes and that the offenders would be punished.

Law enforcement bodies declined to prosecute a number of cases in which perpetrators called for violence and attempted to “justify” violence against LGBT+ people on the grounds of SOGI. This was illustrated in the Shurnukh attack case, where in February the investigation body in the Syunik region closed the case and dropped charges against residents of Shurnukh village who attacked LGBT+ activists in 2018, due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. In August 2020 the criminal court of appeals ruled that investigators had not carried out a proper investigation of the attack and had not taken into consideration the psychological suffering of the victims and discriminatory nature of the crime, ordering that the case be reopened.

Once again, the report highlights how anti-discrimination laws in Armenia do not extend protections to LGBT + people on the basis SOGI. There are no hate crime laws or other criminal judicial mechanisms to aid in the prosecution of crimes against members of the LGBTQI+ community. Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity negatively affected all aspects of life, including prospects for employment, housing, family relations, and access to education and health care. Calls for violence against LGBT+ individuals escalated after the Artsakh war in fall 2020 and in prior to the June parliamentary elections.

This report serves as an indicator and a reminder of the human rights issues in Armenia, and the urgency of anti-discrimination laws, that would ensure the effective protection of the human rights of LGBT+ people in Armenia.