Another Chance to Address Homophobic Violence in Armenia

Earlier this month, Armenia’s Criminal Court of Appeal ruled there had not been a proper investigation into a violent homophobic attack two years ago against a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists.

The court ordered a re-investigation, giving Armenia’s law enforcement agencies a second chance to deliver justice in the case.

In August 2018, a crowd of about 30 men violently assaulted the activists in Shurnoukh, a village in southern Armenia. The crowd shouted homophobic slurs and threats, demanding the activists leave the village. They chased members of the group, hitting, kicking, and throwing stones at them, and shouting “Get rid of those gays!” At least six activists were injured, including one person who sustained a broken nose.

Police questioned several of the attackers. But by November 2018, the government had granted some of the assailants amnesty, and the authorities decided not to prosecute the rest.

The LGBT rights group PINK Armenia challenged the decision not to prosecute the assailants, first in a district court, which found no violation, and then to the Criminal Court of Appeals, which found that the decision was not substantiated. The court also stated that the investigation failed to address the severe psychological pain suffered by the victims.

For years, the Armenian government has failed to effectively investigate anti-LGBT violence in the country, and homophobia remains widespread. A government bill in the works that seeks to address issues of equality has faced criticism because it does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for protection from discrimination.

The court’s decision offers authorities the opportunity to provide justice for victims of anti-LGBT violence. Even two years later, holding perpetrators accountable for this attack would send a strong message that violence against LGBT people in Armenia will not be tolerated. It would be a step in the right direction in the fight against homophobia in the country.