By Karine Kalantarian
Two pro-Ter-Petrosian members of parliament arrested following the post-election clashes have called into doubt the credentials of a recently formed parliamentary ad hoc commission tasked with conducting a probe into the circumstances of the March 1 violence.
Speaking to RFE/RL in prison where both are being kept on grave charges along with other prominent opposition figures, Myasnik Malkhasian and Hakob Hakobian cited the biased positions of some of the commission’s members as the main reason for its inability to conduct ‘an impartial and objective’ inquiry. In particular, Malkhasian challenged the impartiality of the commission’s chairman Samvel Nikoyan, representing the ruling Republican Party’s faction, who, he said, had already made statements on television defending the government’s standpoint.
“Therefore the commission cannot work independently,” Malkhasian said. “There can be no impartial inquiry because no particular investigation is being conducted today in connection with what should be the main focus of the investigation – the people who died. Nothing has been cleared up as to who fired the shots and under what circumstances those people died. There should have been an investigation concerning the wounded, those who inflicted damage on state property. But the investigation today is moving in a different direction. They arrest people and after that they try to fabricate charges against them.”
And Hakob Hakobian regretted the decision of the ad hoc commission not to involve the nominees of their colleagues from the opposition.
“If the commission wanted to clarify anything, they should have been happy to involve Myasnik Malkhasian and Sasun Mikaelyan in its work. Because both of them were on the ground and did not commit any wrongdoing,” Hakobian said.
On Tuesday, the parliament’s only opposition faction Zharangutyun (Heritage), entitled to two seats in the ad hoc commission, nominated Myasnik Malkhasyan and another jailed MP Sasun Mikaelyan, who formally remain members of the Republican Party’s faction, as its representatives in the body. The nominations were later rejected on the grounds that they were not in line with the decision and procedures on setting up the commission under which parliamentary factions can nominate only their members to serve on the commission. Zharangutyun, however, disputed the rejections, claiming that the wording of the document left room for ambiguity.
Like many of the detainees, Malkhasian and Hakobian, were charged with organizing “mass disturbances” and attempting to “usurp power” in the wake of the February 19 presidential election. The charges stem from the March 1 deadly clashes between security forces and thousands of supporters of opposition leader Ter-Petrosian demanding a re-run of what they believe was a rigged vote. Both discard the charges as politically motivated. Malkhasian claims law-enforcers committed numerous violations of constitutional norms while detaining him after the March 1 melee.
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.
Ahead of the Monday the session of the PACE where the Strasbourg-based organization is expected to discuss Armenia’s compliance with its resolution, the Armenian opposition claims that the authorities have failed to make any essential progress towards the implementation of the demands laid out in the document, including in the matter of setting up a credible body for an independent inquiry into the post-election clashes.