Armenia’s International Community to Honour Rights Advocates

The U.S. Embassy, Delegation of the European Union to Armenia, British Embassy, OSCE Office in Yerevan, Council of Europe Office in Yerevan, the United Nations Armenia Office and Counterpart International honoured individuals working to promote human rights, accountable governance, civic activism, local government reform, community service and free speech in Armenia at the Universal Rights Awards Ceremony at the Congress Hotel in Yerevan. Since 2012, the Universal Rights Awards Ceremony was the first multi-mission initiative to highlight the contributions of Armenia’s civil rights activists, government officials, and media and civil society representatives to the promotion of human rights.  Armenian government officials, foreign diplomats, NGO representatives, and the press attended the event.

Head of the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan, Oleksandr Pavlyuk awarded Artak Zeinalyan and Ara Ghazaryan, lawyers with the “Freedom Defender” Award. “Artak’s and Ara’s recognized professionalism and outstanding personal commitment have helped many Armenian nationals in exercising their rights to legal assistance and fair trial, including through applications lodged with the European Court of Human Rights”, said Mr. Pavlyuk.

The British Ambassador to Armenia, Kathy Leach, awarded Lara Aharonian the “Woman of Courage” award. “The people of the Women’s Resource Center are of exceptional courage, prepared to put themselves on the front line to defend the rights of the vulnerable.  Indeed, courage is, perhaps, too weak a word – fearless would be better.  Lara Aharonian, together with her colleagues at the Women’s Resource Centre and other partners, has given a voice to women who found themselves threatened, afraid and voiceless.  In all the work the Women’s Resource Center does, their principle is that everyone should be treated with equality and fairness before the law – we must never turn a blind eye to violence and discrimination.   I am delighted to present this award today to Lara Aharonian, on behalf of the Women’s Resource Center.

The “Civic Activism” Award was given by the country representative of Counterpart International in Armenia, Carel Hofstra, to the organizers of the “We are paying 100 Dram” campaign. “This campaign shows the impact that a grassroots movement can have. With no prior organization and financial resource concerned citizens rallied around a common goal and took effective action” said Mr. Hofstra. “Examples like these bode well for the future of civic activism in Armenia”.

“Media Excellence” Award was given to Hetq online of the Investigative Journalists NGO by Dirk Lorenz, Chargé d’Affaires of the EU Delegation to Armenia. “EU is reiterating on different occasions that free, diverse and independent media constitutes one of the cornerstones of a democratic society by facilitating the free flow of information and ideas, and by ensuring transparency and accountability. Hetq online is a vivid example of investigative journalism in Armenia, which is actively involved in reporting on different fields. Throughout its performance the journalists of Hetq have proved their professionalism and dedication to media principles”, said Mr. Lorenz.

The Deputy Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, Mr. William Hanlon presented the “Government Reformer” Award to Davit Tonoyan, First Deputy Minister of Defence. “Mr. Tonoyan has been an ardent champion of human rights mainstreaming as well as democratic oversight of Armenia’s armed forces. We appreciate his commitment and efforts to reform the security sector of Armenia and to promote the universal values of security, prosperity and democracy that bind us together”, Mr. Hanlon said.

United Nations Resident Coordinator, Bradley Busetto presented the Head of the Karahunj community Lusine Avetyan with the “Local Government Reformer” award. “Lusineh’s leadership in Karahunj have made the community a better place to live through a challenge of growth, reform and change,” said the UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Busetto.

U.S. Ambassador John Heffern presented the “Community Service” Award to Laura Movsisian, Director of Pediatric Rehabilitiation Center in Yerevan. “Dr. Movsisian has made outstanding efforts to provide rehabilitation services to children with disabilities. She sets the example of a leader who serves her community and demonstrates how people can volunteer and help other people,” said Ambassador Heffern.