On 29 December 2016, The Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia (RA), Mr. Arman Tatoyan, and UNHCR Representative in Armenia, Mr. Christoph Bierwirth, signed a project agreement for 2017 titled “Enhancing the capacity of Human Rights Defender’s Office to monitor the situation of refugee and asylum-seekers in Armenia’’. The signing ceremony took place at the UNHCR office in UN House in Yerevan.
In view of the significant challenges faced by Armenia in hosting a growing number of displaced populations in the past few years, the joint project aims to expand the earlier established cooperation between Human Rights Defender’s Office and UNHCR in the field of protection of displaced populations in Armenia.
The project acknowledges the important role of the Human Rights Defender and the Office in protecting not only Armenian citizens but also displaced population living in the territory of Armenia. More specifically, the project entails cooperation in the field of (i) monitoring the situation of human rights protection of refugees and asylum-seekers in Armenia; (ii) enhancing the capacity of Human Rights Defender’s Office; (iii) publishing an ad-hoc report of Human Rights Defender.
On the occasion of the signing ceremony, the RA Human Rights Defender, Mr. Arman Tatoyan, emphasised the importance of human rights protection of refugees, asylum-seekers and other people of concern in Armenia. In this context he highly valued the efforts conducted by UNHCR, as well as the effective cooperation between these two institutions. In his speech the Human Rights Defender paid particular attention to one of the main outcomes of the project: the expected ad-hoc report on the situation of human rights protection of refugees and asylum-seekers in Armenia. As he mentioned, the aim of report is to reveal problems and submit recommendations to stakeholders.
UNHCR Representative in Armenia, Christoph Bierwirth, welcomed the project agreement as an important step for the further enhancing of the joint efforts and coordination. He acknowledged the important role Armenia plays in the protection of refugees, in particular from Syria, having taken the significant share of the global burden if considering the size of Armenia and its population.
“The scope of the challenge related to displacement, the suffering of the people who have lost their homes and belongings and often beloved ones require that the fate of refugees is not subject to populistic debate or party politics but requires a professional dialogue. A well-coordinated engagement of many actors, including the Government, the Human Rights Defender, local and international NGO-s, Diaspora and faith-based organisations, as well as international organisations, such as UNHCR, is crucial for achieving a positive result”, Christoph Bierwirth, the UNHCR Representative in Armenia, emphasized.
In addition, the joint project aims at publishing ad-hoc report of Human Rights Defender to draw public attention to the situation of displaced populations in Armenia. Within the report it is expected to reveal problems in relevant field and in case of necessity to draft legislative amendments and to submit recommendations to stakeholders.
The Representation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Armenia established its presence in Armenia in December 1992 to contribute to the humanitarian response related to the mass influx of 360,000 refugees of Armenian origin displaced from Azerbaijan in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Presently, the office is focusing on the humanitarian needs and promotion of integration of about 14,000 persons who fled the conflict in Syria and sought protection in Armenia, and some 700 persons displaced due to escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in early April 2016. Armenia also hosts refugees and asylum-seekers from Iraq, Ukraine and Iran, and smaller numbers of refugees from some African countries.
The Human Rights Defender’s Office (HRDO) of the Republic of Armenia was established in 2004. HRDO is functioning based on the Constitution and the Law on Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, as well as based on other relevant international and domestic legal documents. The Defender is an independent official who follows the respect for human rights and freedoms by state and local self-government bodies and officials, as well as facilitates the restoration of violated rights and the improvement of the legislation related to human rights and freedoms. Under UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment the Human Rights Defender is recognized as National Preventive Mechanism. Hereby, the Defender and people acting on behalf of him have unlimited access to places where people are or could be deprives of their liberty.