Armenia: Civil Society Proposes a Crisis Plan and Exit Roadmap
On December 18 2020 a gathering of civil society representatives took place, during which the situation in Armenia was assessed, and a number of measures were proposed. As a result, a crisis resolution roadmap for the next 3-6 months was developed. Below, is the document provided by the group which initiated the gathering. (It has not been edited by Hetq).
Proposed Roadmap for the Period between January 1 and March 31 2021
In the period following the 44-day Artsakh war in 2020, the resources of the National Assembly and the Government, political forces and civil institutions of the Republic of Armenia, as well as all forces and resources of the Armenian Diaspora must be focused, to bring the country out of the political, economic, social, humanitarian and psychological crisis.
The following measures must be implemented within the next three to six months, regardless of the electoral processes. In order to coordinate these, an operative headquarters should be set up, engaging representatives of the relevant institutions, and the results should be reported publicly at least once a week or more often as necessary. The initiative group expresses its readiness to form the public oversight level and participate in the establishment of individual working groups, as well as to be involved in their work in practice. It is necessary to, on a daily basis, closely cooperate with the local and international non-governmental, scientific and research institutions and specialists operating in the relevant fields.
The roadmap for overcoming the crisis for the coming months should include at least the following targets and measures;
- Humanitarian issues
1.1. Captives and missing persons: Accelerate the search for and return of captives and missing persons; and develop proposals for the return of the captives in the future as soon as possible. Undertake international legal processes in connection with the torture of prisoners.
1.2 Social welfare: Provide homeless people who are in Armenia and are to return to Artsakh with housing, reasonable financial and other material support, ensuring that no one is left without housing until the end of 2020 and without permanent housing until the end of 2023. Develop a special concept as necessary, using innovative financial and building approaches, ensuring fast and efficient processes. Provide an opportunity for the evacuated persons to enjoy a privileged status (for example, tax exemption) while working and running a small business, to meet their daily needs.
1.3. Psychological support: Provide government funding and coordination, to provide psychological support to those who participated in the war and were affected by the war, inter alia, by mobilizing relevant specialists and organizations.
1.4 Rehabilitation program for the disabled: Develop and adopt an action plan to organize the rehabilitative therapy for people with post-war disabilities and protect their rights.
1.5 Pandemic management: Take measures to prevent the spread of a potential new wave of COVID-19, as well as to prevent and restrain the penetration of a new type of coronavirus.
- Defence and Security
2.1 Demarcation and delimitation: To stop the current prompt, controversial and problematic demarcation and delimitation processes in the border areas. Regardless of how these are presented, i.e. as temporary or permanent, technical or legal solutions, the current process does not comply with the international standards, does not meet the interests of the Republic of Armenia and its citizens, and may have disastrous and irreversible long-term consequences. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, no official demarcation or delimitation was ever performed, and in the Soviet Union there were only artificially drawn internal administrative-and-territorial borders, which in turn changed many times over the years. In view of these circumstances, the demarcation/delimitation operations carried out since the end of the 44-day war to date should be considered only as a temporary situation-based solution for the purpose of ensuring the truce and excluding their legal enshrinement and recognition of borders in the form of an oral statement or written document. It is necessary to set up an inter-agency commission, with a group of experts (lawyers, particularly international law and human rights specialists, historians, geographers, surveyors, cartographers, economists, demographers, military scientists, diplomats, hydrologists, etc.) as a priority. After conducting a comprehensive study within as short a timeframe as possible, start intergovernmental negotiations with Azerbaijan through international mediation, such as the representatives of the Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, in order to clarify the borders between the states, taking into account the international experience and standards .
2.2 Army: Establish an inter-agency fact-finding team, including non-governmental organizations involved in related security issues, in order to disclose and clarify the root causes of the army failures, the related issues and the needs (before, during and after the war), including, inter alia, in terms of the types of weapons, technical equipment, the condition of the infrastructure, organizing the mobilization resources, ensuring proper conditions for the service of servicemen in the army and their rights, and submitting proposals on reforms, including from the perspective of technological and managerial modernization. Taking into account the current tensions in the region, as well as the possible continuation of the conflict, promptly bring the army, as well as the mobilization resources, food and non-food security, service conditions and human rights, armaments, military industry, technical and infrastructural support to the appropriate level of preparedness; fortify and equip the frontline and regularly report on the process to the special working group.
2.3 Home guard: Accelerate the formation and organization of the home guard by introducing the most effective and efficient mechanisms possible, taking into account the experience of the recent war, the successful international models and the local specifics: organize the arming of the population in the border areas in order to ensure self-defence of their own villages and towns; develop and implement mechanisms to ensure engagement of residents of border communities, including women, in defence and self-defence, both in terms of organization and training and provision of defence technical means.
2.4 Civil defence: Considering the fact that many villages became border areas, as well as, in general, the low level of defence and awareness of the RA population, take urgent steps towards the implementation of the key civil defence measures prescribed by law through, inter alia: ensuring the regulation of alarm and rapid response systems; construction or rehabilitation of engineering defence structures and shelters; creation of necessary personal protection supplies for the population; preparation of public institutions (for example, health facilities, educational institutions and municipalities) to bring these to a fully prepared state, i.e. to be ready for all possible scenarios that may occasion evacuation and have complete mapping for assessing resilience; strengthening of security of important facilities; raising public awareness and preparing the population on defence rules and measures, through ensuring, inter alia, quality awareness raising and acquisition of necessary skills in educational institutions.
2.5 Information Security: In view of the propaganda and psychological actions carried out by external and internal forces through information warfare, targeting and attacking of information systems during the war, obtaining by the adversary of information containing state secrets and personal data, as well as the growing scale of misinformation inside Armenia, resulting in further polarization of society and increased vulnerability, thus posing a threat to national security, take urgent measures aimed at raising public awareness and media literacy and prepare a longer-term and comprehensive program. In order to increase the resistance and invulnerability to misinformation and quickly disclose and neutralize the sources of misinformation, to identify actions aimed at evaluating and improving the telecommunications and cybersecurity situation; undertake measures to develop and implement strategic communication by governing bodies, trying to maintain the balance between security, freedom of speech, human rights and public interest and preventing the use of communication as a propaganda tool.
3.1 Goal-Setting: In order to avoid further speculations, officially and publicly clarify the official position the goals of the Republic of Armenia on the negotiations on Artsakh issue, i.e.:
- a) people ‒ exercise of the right of the native Armenian population of Artsakh to live in their historical homeland and their right to self-determination; and ensuring security and other rights. To this end, the international recognition of the Republic of Artsakh should be achieved based on the principle of the right to rehabilitation, “separation for salvation” or “recognition for salvation”, and the precedents of Kosovo, East Timor and South Sudan, on the area with the borders of the USSR Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO). In order to implement this principle, it will be necessary to create guarantees for the return of Armenian refugees to Shahumyan region, Getashen, Martunashen and other Armenian towns and villages, for the return of Azerbaijani refugees to their former places of residence in Artsakh, including Shushi; to ensure a safe and uninterrupted corridor between Armenia and Artsakh, free movement of RA citizens through that corridor and their unimpeded entry into Artsakh, and the security of population of Artsakh through local defence forces, with the support of Armenian defence forces, with the involvement of Russian peacekeepers and, if possible, also peacekeepers from neutral European countries;
- b) monuments ‒ creation of guarantees for the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage within the territory of NKAO and in areas beyond NKAO that have passed under Azerbaijani control, including considering the exchange of territories through demarcation and delimitation and the protected status and protection regime, including security guarantees for visits;
- c) water resources ‒ Deployment of peacekeeping forces in water formation areas, particularly, in Armenia, at the source of the left tributary of the rivers Vorotan and Arpa, and, in Artsakh, at the source of the river Tartar, while conducting negotiations to make sure that these areas pass under the control of Armenia or Artsakh as a result of further demarcation and delimitation operations; and
- d) roads ‒ conduct negotiations on the Nakhchivan -Azerbaijan highway in the last place, reviewing the international best practices and taking into account alternative technological and economic solutions (e.g. an overpass and road tolls), and making sure the roads are safe and they do not violate Armeniaʼs territorial integrity.
3.2 Conducting the negotiation process: Disclose to the public the full content of the negotiations with Russia and Azerbaijan, including the verbal agreements. Taking into account the key importance of the negotiation process in terms of the security of Armenia and Artsakh, the possibility of lengthy negotiations, the vulnerability of sole responsibility for their conduct and the need to ensure stable, consistent and effective work under the conditions of potential political changes after the upcoming elections, form a negotiation team (with three to five members) and an expert group (involving experienced local diplomats, experts in international law and security, experts in conflict studies, specialists who have participated in conflict resolution processes and have experience in international organizations, historians, ethnographers, culturologists, monumentologists and hydrologists), in order to represent the interests of Armenia comprehensively and conduct effective negotiations, as well as to ensure the coherence and the logical continuity of the steps of the Armenian side in the negotiations, regardless of internal political processes.
3.3 Ensuring the basis for effective negotiations: Ensure proper investigation of war crimes and form a comprehensive and professional documentary and legal base in line with international court trials, in order to represent the positions of Armenia and Artsakh in international judicial and quasi-judicial bodies. Implement all legal instruments provided by international agreements, including an intensive submission of complaints to relevant international organizations (UN, OSCE, CoE, EU, NATO, CIS, CSTO, and to their parliamentary assemblies, if any, etc.), as well as to the judicial and quasi-judicial bodies of the UN, EU and the Council of Europe. Strengthen diplomatic representation at key international centers (Moscow, Washington, Paris, New York, Brussels, Strasbourg, Geneva, London, Beijing, Berlin, Delhi, Tbilisi, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Minsk, Rome, Stockholm, Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Latin America, Asia and Africa) and carry out large-scale work on solid foreign policy. Actively launch parliamentary diplomacy and coordinate public diplomacy, including mobilization of Armenian and Diaspora organizations and individuals, as well as their institutional and personal connections.
3.4 Return of Refugees: Establish a commission (involving specialists in international law and humanitarian issues, historians, demographers, ethnographers, etc.) to study/verify the lists of the Armenians displaced from the NKAO, Shahumyan region, Getashen, Martunashen and other adjacent Armenian towns and villages during the two Artsakh wars, understand their intentions, as well as to make/verify the lists of Azeris who lived in the NKAO and the lists of Azerbaijani villages, in order to put their possible return to the Artsakh Republic on the right principles and to avoid speculations.
3.5 Preservation of cultural heritage: Create a complete list of Armenian immovable and movable cultural monuments and museum collections that passed under the control of Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the war, and collect information on known instances of vandalism to monuments. Form a commission with the participation of experienced specialists in international law, which will deal with the legal processes aimed at the protection of the Armenian cultural heritage and the condemnation of vandalism based on the collected information, by addressing complaints to reputable international cultural organizations and rights protection organizations. Exert special efforts to prevent the pro-Azerbaijani biased policy pursued by UNESCO, accounted for by the use of appropriate levers by the First Lady of Azerbaijan, First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Exert efforts to establish an independent international commission which will have an overseeing function and will monitor the condition of the monuments through regular visits.
3.6 Peacekeeping: While appreciating the role of the Russian peacekeeping forces in the cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and the establishment of peace, it is important to clarify the legal status, powers and responsibilities of the Russian peacekeeping mission, ensure the signature and ratification by the Armenian and/or Artsakh authorities of the necessary legal documents, relations with the local population, accountability, issues related to the authorities of Armenia and Artsakh and the civil society. It should be noted that since the truce territories (Dizapayt, Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher) were handed over to Azerbaijan, which were under the control of the Artsakh Defence Army at the time of the truce. The presence of peacekeepers did not rule out the hostilities on December 11 and 12: the Armenian armed forces were attacked by the Azerbaijani armed forces, suffered casualties, and a significant number of people were held captive. Nevertheless, it is important to guarantee the safe return of the Armenian civilian population to the NKAO, including the towns and villages that are under the responsibility of Russian peacekeepers but border with Azerbaijani-controlled territories, and to guarantee the entry of the Armenian population into Shushi and Hadrut to retrieve their property or the exhibits left behind in the museums. It is necessary to work, through negotiations within the framework of the Minsk Group, towards supplementing the peacekeeping mission with peacekeeping forces from other countries, particularly European neutral states, meanwhile, by deploying them also in the seven regions around the NKAO, especially in view of the plans to populate those areas with representatives of terrorist groups involved in the war. Taking advantage of the start of Swedenʼs Chairmanship of the OSCE, come up with a new initiative: negotiate on and achieve the establishment of a monitoring center in Artsakh representing the Minsk Group member states (except Turkey).
4.1 Healing the political field: The involvement of new forces in the Government of the Republic of Armenia has become imperative to guarantee the continuity of the statehood and the dignified life of the citizens of the country. Meanwhile, it should be emphasized that any process aimed at the resignation of the Government, to be immediately followed by snap parliamentary elections, must take place in compliance with the rule of law, within the framework of the Constitution and legislation of the Republic of Armenia.
Given the likelihood of snap elections, amendments to the Electoral Code should be adopted as soon as possible, in particular to ensure a fully proportional representation electoral system, transparency of party and campaign funding and public accountability, greater importance attributed to party ideology, and proper disclosure of and liability for electoral irregularities.
4.2 Exclusion of electoral fraud: Take at least such measures towards the judicial system that would promote the detection and condemnation of violations in electoral processes and exclude electoral fraud.
4.3 Protection of civil society: Take measures to ensure the security of human rights activists, NGOs, representatives of foundations and active public figures engaed in the protection of human rights and democratic values. Take steps to hold liabe individuals and groups involved in deliberate targeting and persecution of organizations, their representatives and individual public figures, and those who disseminate hate speech against them.
- Public solidarity
5.1 Restoration of communication with the public: Launch all possible channels of communication between the National Assembly and the Government on the one hand, and the Human Rights Defender, individuals, civil society and expert community (including those in Artsakh and in the Diaspora) on the other hand: reception hours, meetings, participation in discussions, accountability events, briefings, joint work in working groups, Standing Committees of the RA National Assembly, discussions in public/societal councils, parliamentary hearings, etc. Have public television serve restoration of public solidarity through special programs, including a platform for government agencies, to ensure accountability for the results of crisis management and create and embed a new culture which will turn the real debate between the two sides into a political practice, gradually ending remote monologues and mutual accusations.
5.2 Crime detection: To expose the vicious events that took place during the war, in particular those that are often labeled as “treason” by various public forces, Complete the institution of criminal cases and lawsuits, seeking to make the situation related to the defeat in the Artsakh war clearer to the public before the snap elections, and prevent the pre-election campaign from growing into campaigns by political forces of rebuking one each other unnecessarily as “traitors”.