By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Karine Kalantarian
Deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian slammed the United States on Wednesday for its latest critical report on human rights practices in Armenia, saying that Washington should address its own vote “falsifications” before questioning the legitimacy of Armenian elections.
Torosian, who is a leading member of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), also indicated that the U.S. has no moral right to teach Armenia lessons of freedom and democracy after the scandal over mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by the American military.
“It would be interesting to hear the State Department’s opinion about George Bush’s [November 2000] election, about falsifications committed and about reasons why the [U.S.] court hearings remained incomplete,” Torosian told RFE/RL, reacting to the Armenian section of the State Department on U.S. efforts to protect human rights around the world.
“It would also be interesting to know the State Department’s opinion about the recent disgraceful actions in Iraq,” he added.
The report in question, released on Monday, reaffirms strong U.S. criticism of last year’s disputed presidential election in Armenia. “President Robert Kocharian was re-elected in a controversial vote that was marred by numerous serious irregularities; as a result, the election did not meet international standards,” it says.
The report also says that the Armenian authorities’ human rights record remains “poor,” pointing in particular to continuing reports of arbitrary arrests. Its findings were defended on Wednesday by U.S. Ambassador John Ordway who argued that it is based on a Human Watch Report on Armenia issued last February.
“I would say that it is a very objective review of the situation in Armenia and reflects both the positive and the negative aspects that I think most observers and most Armenians would agree are present in this country,” Ordway told reporters.
Torosian played down the U.S. criticism. “The opinion of international organizations’ opinion is always much more important than that of certain state structures,” he said.
The Armenian government’s official reaction was more cautious. “We take such reports seriously,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian told RFE/RL. “Having said that, we do not always agree with all conclusions.”
“The problems mentioned [in the report] really exist,” the chairman of the parliament committee on foreign affairs, Armen Rustamian, said for his part. “The report should once again remind us that we are not alone in the world and that we are being closely watched.”
Meanwhile, the Armenian opposition, which refuses to recognize the outcome of the presidential ballot, welcomed the U.S. report as vindicating its case for regime change. “The State Department, which represents the official position of the United States, in effect states that there is a serious problem with the reelection of Armenia’s president and thereby casts doubt on Kocharian’s legitimacy,” said Victor Dallakian, a senior member of the Artarutyun alliance.