By Ruzanna Stepanian in Strasbourg
The Monitoring Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Tuesday passed a draft resolution concerning the state of democratic institutions in Armenia urging Armenian authorities to make a number of steps towards changing the situation in the country.
Among the steps listed by the Strasbourg-based organization are launching an independent inquiry into the March 1-2 deadly post-election clashes between opposition protesters and security forces in Yerevan, releasing all prisoners who did not commit crimes, amending the law on public rallies, marches and demonstrations, engaging in a dialogue with the opposition, increasing the opposition’s role in political processes.
Chairman of the Armenian National Assembly’s standing committee on European integration Avet Adonts, who is a member of the Armenian delegation at the Assembly, said in an interview with RFE/RL that all major issues existing in Armenia are presented in the resolution. “There is a point that in June they will address the issue again to see what progress has been made within three months,” Adonts said.
Answering the question whether Armenia’s authorities are ready to release all people who consider themselves to be political prisoners, Adonts said: “We have not had political prisoners and must not have. It is ruled out that we have political prisoners. But I am more than convinced that if a person who is engaged in politics commits a crime he must not escape punishment.”
Adonts admitted that there is a sense of concern among Strasbourg officials over the possible presence of political prisoners in Armenia. “But we will do everything to prove [that there are no such] so as to dispel these concerns,” Adonts said. “There mustn’t and won’t be political prisoners in Armenia… If no crime was committed, they will be released.”
According to the data released by Armenia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office, as of April 15, 78 people are in pre-trial detention on charges stemming from their different roles in the mass unrest in the Armenian capital on March 1-2. Another 16 are said to be awaiting trials outside jail on a written undertaking not to leave the country.
Spokeswoman Sona Truzian told the media that as of Tuesday, 20 criminal cases have been sent to courts and investigations into the cases of another three people have been completed. All mentioned defendants, according to Truzian, admitted to the charges brought against them and requested speedy trials.