By Emil Danielyan
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has praised the Armenian authorities for their “excellent cooperation” with the human rights organization less than six months after threatening to sanction them for their controversial crackdown on the opposition.
In a resolution adopted in Strasbourg late on Thursday, the 45-nation assembly said the authorities have stopped impeding anti-government rallies, released all of their arrested participants and investigated human rights abuses reported during the Armenian opposition’s spring drive for regime change.
The administration of President Robert Kocharian was thus judged to have largely complied with the recommendations of the previous PACE resolution on Armenia adopted on April 28. The assembly threatened at the time not to recognize the credentials of its Armenian members.
“The Parliamentary Assembly expresses satisfaction at its excellent co-operation with the Armenian authorities, their open-minded attitude and the quality of the ongoing dialogue on compliance with obligations and commitments,” reads the new resolution drafted by its chief Armenia rapporteur, Jerzy Jaskiernia.
Jaskiernia’s draft, welcomed by the Armenian government but strongly criticized by the opposition and civic groups, underwent only minor amendments before being passed. Its adoption was facilitated by an apparent deal struck by the pro-government and opposition members of Armenia’s parliamentary delegation in Strasbourg.
The two oppositionists, Shavarsh Kocharian and Artashes Geghamian, made no attempts to change the document’s content during the debate. They instead co-authored minor editorial changes to the document put forward by their pro-presidential colleagues.
The unexpected development followed strongly-worded attacks on Armenia voiced by Azerbaijani parliamentarians. The latter called for a suspension of Armenia’s membership of the PACE over its “military aggression” against Azerbaijan.
Shavarsh Kocharian (no relation to the Armenian president) consequently used most of his speech for the rebuttal of the Azerbaijani accusations. Deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, who heads the Armenian parliamentary delegation in Strasbourg, said this was the result of an agreement reached with the opposition.
The significance of that cooperation was downplayed by opposition leaders in Yerevan, however. “No serious conclusions must be drawn from this,” Victor Dallakian of the Artarutyun alliance told RFE/RL. “I wouldn’t call that cooperation.”
The PACE resolution contends that the Armenian authorities “have refrained from interfering with the conduct of assemblies,” a claim disputed by a coalition of more than 40 Armenian non-governmental organizations. In a statement earlier this week, the Partnership for Open Society (POS) argued that only one out of six rallies held by the opposition in Yerevan since April 28 was officially sanctioned.
The POS also protested Jaskiernia’s assertion, included in the resolution, that the authorities have investigated “the incidents and human rights abuses reported during the recent events, including assaults on journalists and human rights activists.” “It appears that the mere fact of investigation being conducted is sufficient for the rapporteurs to say that the obligations have been met,” its statement said. “But what about the consequences?”
The text of the PACE resolution was somewhat toughened by two amendments pushed through by several non-Armenian parliamentarians led by Boriss Cilevics of Latvia. They reiterate the PACE calls for an end to the practice of Soviet-style “administrative detentions” in Armenia and give Yerevan until March 2005 to bring its controversial law on demonstrations and other public gatherings into “full conformity with Council of Europe standards.”
The resolution also urges Armenia to amend its constitution by next June, decriminalize libel offences, combat corruption and pardon young men jailed for their religiously motivated refusal to serve in the armed forces.
(Council of Europe photo)