By Emil Danielyan
A senior Armenian official claimed on Friday that the Council of Europe will agree to extend its June 2003 deadline for the complete and unconditional abolition of the death penalty in Armenia.
Tigran Torosian, the deputy speaker of the outgoing Armenia parliament, confirmed reports that Yerevan asked the organization’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) for a six-month reprieve, citing a tense political situation in the country. He said the request was received positively by a PACE body monitoring fulfillment of Armenia’s membership obligations.
In a resolution adopted last September, the PACE warned that Armenia should abolish a controversial legal provision allowing the execution of gunmen that attacked it in October 1999 or face the possibility of suspension from the 43-nation assembly. The clause was appended to a new criminal code that bans capital punishment in peacetime.
The issue was discussed during a visit to Yerevan by the heads of the PACE’s monitoring commission late last month. “As a result of the discussions, representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly were persuaded that a new political situation has arisen in the country and that the June deadline is not realistic,” Torosian told a news conference. “The end of this year was seen as a more realistic time frame.”
The head of the Council of Europe office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, did not confirm or deny the claims. Speaking to RFE/RL, Voutova said the matter is being discussed by senior PACE officials and she is not aware of any decisions taken so far. She also said it is still not known whether it will be on the agenda of the PACE’s summer session that begins in Strasbourg on June 23.
The assembly is expected to discuss a report by its observers on the May 25 Armenian parliamentary elections.