NEW YORK-On December 19–1996–the plaintiffs in the class- action suit against Armenian Presidential Advisor Gerard Libaridian sought to withdraw their case from the United States federal district court in order to attempt to pursue their cases in Armenian courts–according to a statement issued by the Center for Economic and Social Rights–a non- profit human rights group based in New York.
The suit charged Libaridian with legal responsibility for his role in the violent government crackdown against ordinary citizens and various members of opposition political parties and their families and neighbors– following the September 21–1996 presidential election in Armenia–which was judged by election observers to be neither fair nor free.
The plaintiffs sought remedy for the injuries they suffered during the crackdown–when government forces rounded up more than 175 men and women–including members of the National Assembly–subjected them to beatings–torture and interrogation–and kept them captive in jails and isolation wards around the country for extended periods of time.
Many were held for over two weeks and suffered severe injuries requiring hospitalization. During their imprisonment–they had no contact with their families–and were not allowed access to counsel. At the same time–the government attacked a number of opposition political party offices–destroying or confiscating all of the parties records–equipment and property.
Sarah Leah Whitson–CESR’s general counsel and an adviser on the case–commented: "The plaintiffs in this case are exceedingly brave–and have a sincere hope that they can move their country back on a democratic path. They are taking an enormous risk by choosing to pursue their cases in Armenian courts–where they have virtually no assurance that they will receive a fair trial. By bringing their cases in Armenia–they are giving the courts there another opportunity for redemption as an independent judicial body committed to protecting the rights of Armenia’s citizens and to seeing that justice is done."
"We will stand behind the plaintiffs in this case with every resource at our disposal. We will continue to provide them with legal assistance on questions of international law and to coordinate our efforts with local human rights groups in Armenia," she said.
Roger Normand–executive director of CESR–said: "We believe that several of the cases primary objectives have been achieved. This case has sent a strong message to the government of Armenia that those responsible for violating international law and abusing the rights of other citizens can be held personally liable and brought to justice even in courts outside their country."
"The international community is watching the Armenian government very closely; we know the government knows that," he added.