Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh has had spillover effects for democracy – Freedom House

Public Radio of Armenia. Armenia and Artsakh are rated as “partly free” in a new report published by the Freedom House.

Armenia’s neighbor Georgia is also ranked as “partly free,” while Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran are all labeled as “not free.”

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As a lethal pandemic, economic and physical insecurity, and violent conflict ravaged the world in 2020, democracy’s defenders sustained heavy new losses in their struggle against authoritarian foes, shifting the international balance in favor of tyranny, Freedom Hose says in the “Freedom in the World 2021:  Democracy under Siege” report.

“Incumbent leaders increasingly used force to crush opponents and settle scores, sometimes in the name of public health, while beleaguered activists—lacking effective international support—faced heavy jail sentences, torture, or murder in many settings,” the report notes.

“The use of military force by authoritarian states, another symptom of the global decay of democratic norms, was on display in Nagorno-Karabakh last year. New fighting erupted in September when the Azerbaijani regime, with decisive support from Turkey, launched an offensive to settle a territorial dispute that years of diplomacy with Armenia had failed to resolve. At least 6,500 combatants and hundreds of civilians were killed, and tens of thousands of people were newly displaced. Meaningful international engagement was absent, and the war only stopped when Moscow imposed a peacekeeping plan on the two sides, fixing in place the Azerbaijani military’s territorial gains but leaving many other questions unanswered,” Freedom House said.

“The fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh has had spillover effects for democracy. In addition to strengthening the rule of Azerbaijan’s authoritarian president, Ilham Aliyev, the conflict threatens to destabilize the government in Armenia. A rare bright spot in a region replete with deeply entrenched authoritarian leaders, Armenia has experienced tentative gains in freedom since mass antigovernment protests erupted in 2018 and citizens voted in a more reform-minded government,” the report said.

It added that the signing of the trilateral statement to end the war by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sparked a violent reaction among some opponents, who stormed the parliament in November and physically attacked the speaker.

“Such disorder threatens the country’s hard-won progress, and could set off a chain of events that draws Armenia closer to the autocratic tendencies of its neighbors,”  Freedom House said.

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