By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Parliament will likely discuss and ratify early next week a pan-European convention that will lead to the complete abolition of the death penalty in Armenia.
The issue has been included on the agenda of a three-day sitting that will open the National Assembly’s autumn session on Monday. Its deputy speaker, Tigran Torosian, said he believes the assembly will satisfy a key requirement of Armenia’s membership in the Council of Europe by signing up to the Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights which bans capital punishment in peacetime.
“Failure to ratify the Protocol No. 6 is fraught with serious complications for Armenia that could range from discussions on our membership of European structures to serious sanctions against us,” Torosian told reporters.
Speaking to RFE/RL last week, he expressed hope that the document’s ratification will also lead the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) not to slap sanctions on Yerevan over its handling of this year’s disputed presidential and parliamentary elections. The PACE threatened to impose the sanctions last June and may discuss the issue later this month.
The ratification will invalidate a controversial legal loophole allowing death sentences against the five perpetrators of the 1999 terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament. The exception, appended to Armenia’s new criminal code, is advocated by relatives and supporters of senior officials who were assassinated by the gunmen. Among them are the two leaders of the opposition Artarutyun alliance, Stepan Demirchian and Aram Sarkisian. Artarutyun lawmakers are bound to oppose the ratification.
Torosian, who will lead Armenia’s new delegation at the PACE, denied reports that some deputies from the governing Republican Party of Armenia are ready to side with the opposition on the issue. “The Republicans must vote with a single voice,” he said. “None of them will vote against the Protocol No.6.”