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Rights Activists Slam Government Action as ‘Imitation’


By Ruzanna Stepanian and Karine Kalantarian
A number of human rights organizations issued a statement Tuesday criticizing the Armenian authorities for making an imitation of the fulfillment of the demands laid out in a Council of Europe resolution on the political crisis in Armenia.

They in particular said that no independent inquiry has yet been conducted into the circumstances of the March 1 events and the developments that had led up to them and no one has been brought to responsibility for at least ten deaths and hundreds of injured people. They also said that the matter was entrusted to a commission formed by the coalitional forces in the parliament that “does not enjoying public trust” and “has many times proved its anti-democratic nature.”

The human rights activists say that despite few decisions to change measures of restriction in relation to some, most of those arrested for political reasons still remain in custody. They also discard as cosmetic the amendments made in the law on freedom of assembly, as a result of which, they claim, the constitutional rights of Armenian citizens to a peaceful assembly still remain restricted.

Artur Sakunts, head of the Vanadzor-based regional branch of the Armenian Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, fears a possible ‘political deal’ between the Venice Commission, which gave a positive conclusion to the amendments made by the Armenian legislature in the law on assemblies, and the authorities of Armenia.

“I consider it to be a deal with Armenia’s authorities. That is, political factors here prevailed over democratic principles,” Sakunts asserted.

The human rights campaigner does not exclude that the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) may give Armenia more time to fulfill its demands.

“But an inadequate approach in such a situation would show that the Council of Europe is not consistent with its principles,” Sakunts added.

Meanwhile, Armenian Helsinki Association head Mikael Danielian, who met with visiting PACE Monitoring Commission member Georges Colombier on Tuesday along with heads of another three nongovernmental organizations, told RFE/RL that all speakers at the discussion voiced an opinion that the demands of the PACE resolution have not been fulfilled by the Armenian authorities.

“I expressed my opinion that if Europe wants Armenia to move towards democracy, pressure must be exerted on Armenia’s authorities and some sanctions must be applied,” Danielian said.

Representatives of the other NGOs declined to answer questions citing the confidential nature of the discussion.

While in Armenia, Colombier also met with families of arrested politicians.

Marine Harutiunian, the wife of politician Grigor Voskerchian, told RFE/RL that they had presented the current situation to the co-rapporteur and what she described as the ‘illegal course of legal proceedings’.

“We received a strange answer -- You want us to apply sanctions against Armenia? But do you understand that by pushing [Armenia] out of the Council of Europe you will not get your husbands released? And I put a question to them – and what would happen if you don’t impose sanctions? Will there be ‘March 1’ again? Will you be responsible for that then?”
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