Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09YEREVAN700
2009-10-02 13:29:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES RESTRICTIVE

Tags:  PHUM PGOV AM 
pdf how-to read a cable
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DE RUEHYE #0700/01 2751329
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021329Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9561
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0764
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 0613
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 000700 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR DRL AND EUR/CARC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/01/2019
TAGS: PHUM PGOV AM
SUBJECT: ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES RESTRICTIVE
AMENDMENTS TO NGO LAW

REF: A) YEREVAN 451 B) YEREVAN 645

YEREVAN 00000700 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: DCM Joseph Pennington. Reason 1.4 (b/d).

SUMMARY
-------

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 000700

SIPDIS

STATE FOR DRL AND EUR/CARC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/01/2019
TAGS: PHUM PGOV AM
SUBJECT: ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES RESTRICTIVE
AMENDMENTS TO NGO LAW

REF: A) YEREVAN 451 B) YEREVAN 645

YEREVAN 00000700 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: DCM Joseph Pennington. Reason 1.4 (b/d).

SUMMARY
--------------


1. (SBU) On September 23 the GOAM approved proposed changes
to the Law on Public Organizations (NGO law) which, if
adopted by the Parliament, threaten to restrict significantly
the rights of NGOs and increase government control of their
finances. There were no public discussions held with the NGO
community before drafting of the amendments, and it took
everyone by surprise, including the Ombudsman (who learned
about the proposed changes from us). These measures come at
a busy time for Armenia, when all eyes are fixed on
developments in the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement process.
The proposed amendments follow closely on the heels of the
criminal prosecutions of several civic activists, and appear
to be an effort by the GOAM to tighten control over the NGO
community. END SUMMARY.


2. On September 23, the GOAM approved draft changes to the
NGO law. The amendments were proposed by Minister of Justice
Gevorg Danielian, who claimed to be acting in response to NGO
requests to improve the existing law. Following government
approval, the draft will now be sent to Parliament. There is
no information yet available on the timeframe by which
Parliament will proceed with the draft.

CRUX OF THE CHANGES AND RESTRICTIONS
--------------


3. (SBU) There are two primary changes changes to the law
that are being proposed: 1) NGOs will be required to
re-register their organizations every time a change in
leadership occurs, and 2) NGOs will be required by April 1 of
each year to publish in a newspaper (with circulation of no
less than 1,000) information on sources of income;
expenditures by category; all transactions above one million
drams (about USD 2,600); activities to implement the
chartered goals; number of members each month; names of
people involved in the leadership of the organization; all
changes in leadership. Organizations would also be required
to publish information about their tax payments. In case of
a failure to fulfill these requirements, or in cases of
providing false/inaccurate information, any member of the
organization, third party or the authorized government body
(Ministry of Justice) may request to convene a general
meeting of the organization or in case of the failure to do
so, file a court complaint with the same demand.


4. These changes threaten to impose significant
administrative burdens on NGOs. The provision requiring
re-registration would introduce corruption risks every time a
NGO would need to re-register, and would give the GOAM
effective veto power over the organization's selection of
leaders. The disclosure provisions would impose requirements
that do not apply to commercial organizations. While both
are required to file tax returns, only NGOs would be required
to publish them in newspapers or provide detail about their
finances and operations in such a public manner.

NGOS TO TAKE ACTION ... SOON
--------------


5. (SBU) The NGO community was caught largely by surprise by
these proposed changes, and most are still unaware of them.
Some, however, are beginning to spread the word and prepare
to resist this new legislation through public discussions and
letters. The Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman),Armen
Harutyunian, was also caught completely unaware, and heard
about the development from our PolFSN at a September 30
meeting. He expressed surprise that the draft had not been
submitted to him for review, since according to a July 18,
2007 governmental decree, all drafts relating to human rights
and freedoms must be passed by him for an opinion. He was
worried by the negative reactions these proposed revisions
might cause, and promised to look into the issue. The press
also has been silent on the proposed amendments.

COMMENT
--------------


6. (C) With this draft law, Armenia looks to be taking
another page from the Russian playbook. Together with other
recent assaults on civic activism (e.g. the trumped-up arrest

YEREVAN 00000700 002.2 OF 002


of Helsinki Association member Arshaluis Hakobian, the absurd
criminal investigation into whistleblower Mariam Sukhudian -
reftels),this NGO law represents an acceleration of a
worrisome trend. The architects of the legislation may be
calculating that the international community is too
distracted by Turkish-Armenian rapprochement to bother
protesting the measure. We will disabuse them of that
notion. Coordinating with other like-minded missions and
international organizations, we plan to raise our concerns
with the leadership in Parliament and the Presidency at the
earliest opportunity.
YOVANOVITCH