By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian government asked the parliament on Thursday to maintain a controversial legal clause that allows death sentences against five jailed gunmen who stormed it in October 1999.
The move could put Yerevan on a collision course with the Council of Europe which has demanded a full and unconditional abolition of the death penalty in Armenia in peace-time.
A new criminal code passed by the Armenian parliament in the first reading last summer formally scraps capital punishment. However, lawmakers added to it a special provision allowing local courts to sentence to death individuals who committed “terrorist acts” and other grave crimes before the code’s entry into force. The measure was clearly intended for the parliament gunmen standing trial for more than two years.
In a resolution adopted last September, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly Europe (PACE) warned that the clause is in breach of Armenia’s membership commitments and urged the authorities to drop all exceptions from the rule. “If that does not occur before June 2003, the Assembly may decide to annul the ratified credentials of the Armenian parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe at the June 2003 part-session of the Parliamentary Assembly,” the resolution said.
The draft criminal code will be put to the parliament vote in the final, third reading on Friday. A government representative, Mikael Grigorian, urged the lawmakers to keep it unchanged. “It is up to the parliament to make a final decision,” he said.