A court in Armenia has directed the police to reinvestigate a 2018 brutal attack on LGBTQI activists.

The Criminal Court of Appeal ruled that the investigator had failed to properly probe the incident on August 3, 2018 when around nine LGBTQI activists and their friends were set upon by a mob of 30 people in Shurnukh village in the Syunik region of Armenia.

“We hope that this decision will finally force the investigation body to resume the preliminary investigation and to start examining the real motive of the crime,” Pink Armenia, an LGBTQI advocacy group said in a statement.

“This decision of the Criminal Court of Appeal (has) reaffirmed that the investigation of Shurnukh case was biased, and the motive of a crime (hatred against sexual orientation and gender identity of the victims) was completely ignored and not examined.”

 The incident occurred in 2018 when the group was on a holiday and visited the house of an activist in the village. The mob attacked the group shouting “leave homos” and threw rocks at them. When the activists fled towards the road seeking help from passing vehicles, the mob followed and prevented anyone from helping them, according to Pink Armenia. They were finally rescued by a police team. Two of the activists suffered serious injuries that required medical treatment, while the others escaped with minor injuries.

The government granted amnesty to some of the assailants and the investigation agency decided not to prosecute the remaining 13 accused. This decision was challenged by Pink Armenia. The first Instance Court of the Syunik region ruled that no rights were violated and dismissed the organisation’s petition. Earlier, this month a court of appeal held that “the investigator had not conducted a proper investigation, was in a hurry (to close the case), and made an unreasonable decision.”

“We think it is clear to everyone that violating the dignity of a person, subjecting them to psychological or physical abuse for discriminatory reasons, should be severely condemned and punished… The Criminal Court of Appeal referred to the facts of severe mental suffering of the victims and the discriminative motive of the crime, and noted that the investigator had failed to conduct the investigation properly,” said Pink Armenia in a statement.

Along with an earlier decision that said that granting amnesty to some of the assailants was wrong, the court order now paves the way for a re-investigation of the incident.

 ILGA-Europe had ranked Armenia at 47 in its “Rainbow ranking” of 49 countries in Europe scoring just 8% for LGBTQI rights. In a report, Amnesty International said that in Armenia, “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continued to face harassment and discrimination.” It pointed to a report by Pink Armenia that revealed that in the first half of 2019, it had documented 24 cases of homophobic and transphobic crimes. The crimes included, physical violence, cases of domestic violence and extortion.

Following the 2018 attack, Serj Tankian, a popular Armenian-American musician, who is considered by many to be an ally, had called for action.

“Justice needs to be served along with serious education in rural Armenia on LGBT issues.”

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