LOS ANGELES — The rule of law demands that the courtroom remain faithfully in the service of the law—not of political stratagem.

The Armenian Rights Watch Committee (ARWC) of the Armenian Bar Association is closely monitoring the recent arrest and pretrial detention in Yerevan of the 1990s Karabakh War’s Shushi Battalion Commander, Jirayr Sefilian. Criminal charges, pursuant to Armenia’s Criminal Code Section 235, part 2, were reportedly filed against Mr. Sefilian on June 22, 2016. The timing of the imprisonment coincides with the June 20 trilateral meeting in St. Petersburg, behind closed doors, reportedly focused on “reaching a settlement to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict.”

To be clear, it is not lost on the ARWC that the former Karabakh commander, Mr. Sefilian, is a fierce critic of the ruling authorities in the Republic of Armenia. It is also not lost on the ARWC that the arrest of any outspoken critic of a political regime raises concerns as to proper motive and requisite probable cause underlying the charges levied. Recent news that Mr. Sefilian will be detained prior to trial only heightens the ARWC’s attention to the matter.

We expect that Mr. Sefilian will be afforded access to legal counsel and that any charges are adjudicated transparently, speedily and with full adherence to due process. If the Republic is to adhere to democratic principles and the rule of law, it is incumbent upon its ruling authorities to insure that allegations brought in a court of law, without more, neither serve as a muzzle for silencing policy critics nor as an instrument for suppressing political opposition.

Armenian Rights Watch Committee — ARWC Armenian Bar Association

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