“Ukrainian scenario is unfolding in the Caucasus”: Freedom House on Armenia
Freedom House on Armenia’s achievements
The international human rights organization Freedom House drew parallels between Russia’s actions against Ukraine and Azerbaijan’s actions against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh:
“The occupation of the territory of Ukraine by Moscow in 2014 and 2022 led to the loss of rights and physical security of the local population. There are many indications that the expansion of Baku’s control over Nagorno-Karabakh and some territories of Armenia will similarly deprive the freedom and security of the local population.”
In its ‘Countries in Transition 2023’ annual report, Freedom House emphasizes that a scenario similar to Ukraine’s is unfolding in the Caucasus, but much less attention is being paid to it. The organization calls on democratic governments not to ignore this danger, “to take all possible steps to strengthen democracy in Armenia and ensure the protection of all who live in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan or who are trying to avoid occupation.”
- “The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan includes Nagorno-Karabakh,” and other statements by Pashinyan
“Isolation of NK Armenians under the pretext of “environmental protests”
This is how the Freedom House report describes the blocking of movement along the Lachin corridor, which is the “key road” for connecting the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh with the outside world.
The 2023 report is titled “War Deepens Regional Divide”. And the organization focuses on military operations. In particular, the report emphasizes that after the victory in the 2020 war, “the regime of President Aliyev of Azerbaijan continued to realize its territorial ambitions by military means.”
The document contains a special reference to the “large-scale invasion” of the territory of the Republic of Armenia by Azerbaijan. We are talking about the hostilities that took place in September 2022.
The government of Armenia is “transitional”, Azerbaijan is “authoritarian”
The annual report evaluates the level of democracy in Central Europe and Central Asia. Armenia is represented in the Transitional Government or Hybrid Regime group. Among the post-Soviet countries, this group also includes Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
With an index of 3.11, Armenia lags behind Ukraine (3.36) and Moldova (3.14), but slightly ahead of Georgia (3.04).
According to the democratization index, countries are evaluated on a seven-point scale. Last year Armenia’s rating was 3.04.
Neighboring Azerbaijan was included in the Consolidated Authoritarian Regime group of countries along with Russia and Belarus.
“Russian invasion of Ukraine, Azerbaijan’s penetration of Armenia and repression in Central Asia pose a critical threat posed by authoritarian regimes,” Freedom House experts say.
Armenia’s democratic development ‘faces powerful opposition’
The human rights organization notes that although Armenia has not yet applied for EU membership, in 2022 it continued to promote democratic reforms, becoming the only country to improve its position on several indicators.
According to the report, Armenia has recorded progress in the field of NGOs and independent media. Public and media organizations, with their arguments and objections, persuaded the government to abandon the “controversial law criminalizing insults.”
However, Freedom House warns that the situation in Armenia could worsen, given the arrests of opposition candidates ahead of local elections last August.
The authors of the report emphasize that Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia have been “steadily improving their democratic institutions” in recent years. They believe that these countries have advanced due to civic engagement and election consistency. “The people and the leaders elected in free elections” fought for better governance even when the aggression of authoritarian regimes threatened their security.
“Armenia’s democratic project is facing strong opposition due to its reliance on authoritarian Russia for military protection from a hostile and equally authoritarian neighbor like Azerbaijan,” the report says.
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Freedom House on Armenia’s achievements