Armenia’s main opposition forces have claimed government intervention in the work of a supposedly independent inquiry into the deadly post-election clashes and have threatened to withdraw from it unless the authorities stop “imposing decisions and putting pressure on the group.”
In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) Party, both of which have a representative to the Fact-Finding Group of Experts, said “the presidential administration had intervened in the Group’s work by ordering it, without any legal grounds, to work inside the building of the National Assembly.”
Earlier, the group collecting key facts relating to the March 1 violence decided to conduct its main proceedings within the premises of the Ombudsman’s Office.
The opposition said working within the National Assembly premises would contain risks of undue pressure on the group’s experts and would threaten the principle of witness identity protection, which will, in turn, reduce essentially the efficiency of the probe.
The HAK and Zharangutyun are convinced that “such actions by the authorities once again show that they are not interested in an unbiased and independent inquiry into the March 1 events.”
Urging the authorities to give up its ‘pressures’ on the group as well as ‘attempts to control its activities’, the authors of the statement warned they would have to recall their representatives if the practice continued.
The five-member Fact-Finding Group of Experts was established by the order of President Serzh Sarkisian in late October. The body that includes two representatives from the opposition, two representatives from the four-party governing coalition and one expert representing Armenia’s ombudsman began its work on November 14. Under the presidential executive order, the group will hold its meetings behind closed doors and no information is allowed to be published about its current work until the group completes its mission. The Group will eventually submit its findings to the parliamentary ad hoc commission that has conducted its own inquiry since June.