Declaration of support for Armenian civil society against pressure from mining companies

, 2024-03-07

In recent years, Armenian civil society initiatives working on the environmental or human health impacts of intensive mining have increasingly faced pressure from mining companies. The forms of pressure include defamation, threats, as well as civil lawsuits against human rights defenders or environmental activists.

We, together with international human rights networks and other civil society organizations, consider these lawsuits to be an unacceptable form of pressure and persecution. The aim of the mining companies is not to seek justice, but instead to silence the undesirable voice of the opposing side that exposes the negative consequences and long-term impacts of intensive mining.

These voices that must now face aggressive practices include not only human rights activists and defenders but also people living in the communities immediately affected by mining activities.

Our colleague, partner and friend, Oleg Dulgaryan, who has been a long-term advocate for the rights of residents of communities affected by mining activities with his organization, the Centre for Community Mobilization and Support, has now also become the target of a civil lawsuit and pressure. He has been sued by Zangezur Copper Molybdenum Combine. The latter is a part of the Russian group of companies Geopromining, whose shareholders include the Government of the Republic of Armenia. In the lawsuit, the mining company is demanding an apology, the withdrawal of statements highlighting the negative effects of mining and is seeking compensation of AMD 6 000 000 (approximately EUR 14 000). We believe that this kind of attitude does not belong in a democratic society and must be clearly identified and opposed.

Similar actions and lawsuits that suppress freedom of speech, not only for activists, have a long history in Russia, for example, where civil lawsuits have gradually turned into criminal proceedings in which human rights defenders face long prison sentences. It is now necessary to prevent such practices from happening in Armenia.

Armenian initiatives and organizations, including Oleg Dulgaryan, are bravely facing the growing pressure from mining companies, believing that such processes will only strengthen their voice and highlight the negative impacts of intensive mining on the environment and human health. They believe that Armenia will remain on the path of democracy and social justice.

We appeal, despite the optimism and strength of Armenian civil society, for the pressure on active collectives and individuals in Armenia to be given the necessary attention and for a fair assessment of these processes at the international level.