YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Day of Repressed People is marked on June 14. A Noyan Tapan reporter requested the deputy ad of the Presidential Human Rights Commission–former political prisoner Vardan Harutiunian to compare the human rights situation in the present-day Armenia with that in Soviet times.
"From the viewpoint of human rights–there is only one achievement in the independent Armenia as compared to the Soviet times. This achievement is the freedom of speech which is an absolute value and we should be proud of it," Harutiunian said. However–on the whole–the human rights situation in Armenia is far from being satisfactory–which is stated in the annual report of the Human Rights Commission for 1999.
According to Harutiunian–the most serious situation is in the medical service–"that is–from the viewpoint of the people’s right to high-quality medical aid." He pointed out that 90% of country’s population is unable to pay for medical aid.
Stating that the Commission members regularly visit jails and remand prisons–Harutiunian pointed out that "At the best nothing has changed in places of confinement since Soviet times–and the situation is extremely serious–especially in the remand prisons of the Military Prosecutor’s Office". He stated that one should not forget that "the arrestees are our fellow-citizens and have to come back to society after serving out their sentences."
Vardan Harutiunian stated that he pins certain hopes on Armenia’s forthcoming admission to the Council of Europe which "implies additional commitmen’s for the state both in the sense that it must be democratic and from the viewpoint of ensuring the rights of its citizens".