WASHINGTON (RFE/RL)–U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has again assured Armenian civic organizations that the United States is “steadfastly committed” to promoting democracy and respect for human and civil liberties in their country.
“The United States believes that the same values that gave birth to our nation–open and vibrant democracy and unwavering respect for human rights, including a firm commitment to media freedom–are the bedrock of a free, prosperous society, and critical to Armenia’s future. We stand by these values and will continue to voice our support for them in Armenia and around the world,” Clinton said in a letter to nine Armenian human and civil rights organizations.
The letter, publicized on Thursday by one of those groups, the Asparez Journalists Club, came in response to their joint appeal to Clinton that was issued during her recent visit to Armenia. They urged Washington to press the Armenian authorities to immediately free all “political prisoners,” end police torture and attacks on journalists, and properly investigate the 2008 post-election violence in the Armenian capital.
The Asparez chairman, Levon Barseghian, handed the written appeal to Clinton at her July 5 meeting in Yerevan with two dozen local journalists, human rights campaigners and other civic activists.
Addressing them, Clinton heaped praise on Armenian pro-democracy groups and pledged continued U.S. support for their activities. “Please know that the United States and the Obama administration and the American people are standing with you as you help lead your country into that future of promise and potential that every Armenian deserves,” she said.
In her July speech, the chief U.S. diplomat also expressed concern about media freedom in Armenia and, in particular, a controversial law on broadcasting enacted by the authorities. But she made no mention of the continuing imprisonment of more than a dozen Armenian opposition leaders and members arrested following the disputed February 2008 presidential election
The Armenian opposition has repeatedly accused the U.S. and other Western powers of being lenient towards President Serzh Sarkisian because of his Western-backed policies toward Turkey and Azerbaijan.