By Emil Danielyan
The Council of Europe announced on Thursday that it will send on August 20 its first fact-finding mission to Armenia since this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections which it criticized as deeply flawed.
A statement issued from Strasbourg said two members of the council’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) will “assess the state of Armenia's honoring of the commitments it made on joining the Council of Europe in 2001” during four days of meetings with President Robert Kocharian, senior law-enforcement and government officials, top parliamentarians and leaders of the opposition. The PACE officials, Jerzy Jaskiernia of Poland and Rene Andre of France, will also meet representatives of civic organizations, media and national minorities, the statement said.
The visit will take place one month before the autumn session of the PACE which is expected to hold further discussions on the Armenian authorities’ handling of the 2003 elections marred with widespread irregularities. The PACE discussed the issue at its summer session last June, threatening to strip its Armenian members of voting rights over instances of fraud reported by its election observers. The latter have proposed placing Armenia under a regime of permanent Council of Europe monitoring as a way of ensuring its compliance with the organization’s democracy standards.
The Armenian authorities are trying to forestall Council of Europe sanctions by promising to reform the country’s electoral legislation in collaboration with the main opposition parties. The new four-member Armenian delegation at the PACE, named by parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, comprises a prominent opposition figure, Shavarsh Kocharian.
The findings of Jaskiernia and Andre will therefore be important for Armenia’s standing in the authoritative human rights organization.