By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The pro-government members of Armenia’s National Assembly on Monday voted unanimously in favor of setting up an ad hoc commission tasked with a parliamentary investigation into the March 1-2 deadly clashes between opposition supporters and security forces.
The commission will include two parliament deputies from each faction and one independent deputy. In its final form it will thus include at least eight pro-government lawmakers and two opposition representatives.
The parliament opposition represented by the Zharangutyun (Heritage) faction opted out of the vote and was not even present at the chamber at the time of voting.
Zharangutyun faction member Armen Martirosian told RFE/RL that the faction’s participation in the commission’s work was in doubt. “Since our basic proposals were not accepted,” he explained.
“There is a preliminary decision to abstain from having any representative in the commission yet,” Zharangutyun faction secretary Stepan Safarian told RFE/RL.
The newly established commission, which is due to present its conclusion to the National Assembly by October 25, held its first meeting later on Monday electing Republican Samvel Nikoyan as its chairman (the vice-chairman’s position is reserved for a Zharangutyun representative). The commission is expected to make an offer to Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrosian and other political groups not represented in the National Assembly to name representatives to the commission, but these representatives will not have voting rights, however.
Last week the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition shrugged off a probe in this format.
The conduct of an “independent, transparent and credible inquiry” was one of the key demands addressed to the Armenian authorities by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in a resolution adopted in mid-April. The European Union and the United States have also stressed the need to establish all circumstances of the March 1 violence in Yerevan that left at least ten people dead and more than 100 others injured.
In another development, President Serzh Sarkisian signed into law on Monday the legislative amendments abolishing some of the serious restrictions on freedom of assembly which were imposed during a 20-day emergency rule in capital Yerevan following the suppression of post-election opposition protests. Abolishing the restrictions was also one of the demands of the PACE Resolution.
According to Sarkisian’s press office, the law will become effective the next day after its publication in the “Republic of Armenia Official Newsletter”.
Armenia’s opposition on Friday plans to hold the first rally in the capital’s Liberty Square after the bloody dispersal of its post-election street protests. It says it will go ahead with the plan despite the Yerevan municipality’s refusal to authorize the rally last week.