Petition for Vahagn Chakhalyan

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TO: José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgian authorities have been gradually toughening their policy towards the Armenian minority of the country, and in particular, with regard to Armenians compactly living in south-western Georgia (Javakhk). Today, the basic political, civil, linguistic, educational, religious and cultural rights of the Javakhk Armenians are flagrantly violated. The local Armenian political activists, who try to protest against the discriminatory policies of the Georgian authorities, are persecuted.

Within this context, April 17, 2011 will mark the 1000 days in jail of Vahagn Chakhalyan, a prominent Armenian political activist from Javakhk. Arrested on the eve of the August 2008 five-day war, he was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment by a Georgian court. The sentence was the outcome of a trial marked by flagrant violations of the law and was based mainly on many fake charges. The decision was clearly political in nature as it intended to curb the social and political activity of the Armenian activist who was deeply involved in the struggle for the protection of the rights of the Armenian population of Javakhk.

After Vahagn Chakhalyan’s arrest, multi-directional violations of the rights of the Armenian population of Javakhk gained a higher momentum. Thus, the social and political life of the Javakhk Armenians is today totally controlled by security forces. Under the pretext of improving the knowledge of the Georgian language, measures are officially taken for the quick “Georgianisation” of Armenian schools. Armenian teachers who have the courage to protest against such measures are fired. It is within this atmosphere of general disappointment and boycott that the local elections were rigged in May 2010.

A number of authoritative international organizations, such as the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Council of Europe, frequently urged the Georgian authorities to tackle the problems of the Armenian minority of Georgia and find adequate solutions, but the Georgian government has been constantly ignoring all these calls.

Taking into consideration the above facts, we, the undersigned, urge you to take immediate steps to put an end to the discriminatory policies against the Javakhk Armenians.

In particular, we demand:

  1. To stop all persecutions against Vahagn Chakhalyan and to release him immediately.
  2. To grant a special regional status to the Armenian language in the regions where Armenians make-up the majority of the population.
  3. To endow the Georgian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church with a long-awaited legal status, and to return to its jurisdiction the Armenian churches confiscated during the Soviet era.
  4. To stop all programs pursuing the “Georgianisation” of the Armenian schools.
  5. To abolish the ban on the entry of Armenian books and written press through the customs checkpoint on the Armenian-Georgian border in Bavra-Ninodzminda.
  6. To abolish the ban on the entry into Georgia of Armenian personalities concerned with the problems of Javakhk.

Middle Eastern political processes witnessed in 2011 prove once more, if such a need exists, that authoritarian regimes which grossly violate the basic rights of their population are not viable anymore in the 21rst century. Having this in mind, to ensure stability in the region, we urge the international and European institutions to intensify their efforts for the implementation by Georgia of the commitments it has officially undertaken in the field of the protection of the human and minority rights of its local population.

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