By Tatevik Lazarian
A leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) on Thursday expressed serious concern about the Council of Europe’s threats impose sanctions on Armenia, saying that they would deal a serious blow to the country’s international standing.
“It is very possible that we will get sanctions,” Armen Rustamian told RFE/RL. “Armenia’s reputation and image will be called into question for nothing, which is not good for me.”
The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) was asked by its Monitoring Committee last week to suspend the voting rights of its Armenian members because of the continuing imprisonment of scores of opposition members arrested following last February’s presidential election. The committee for the first time described them as “political prisoners.”
Rustamian, who also heads the Armenian parliament’s committee on foreign relations, said President Serzh Sarkisian should have pardoned the jailed oppositionists months ago. He argued that the accusations leveled against them have “an inherent political subtext.”
“You know that were in favor of quick solutions and a political interference in this process,” Rustamian said, referring to his party represented in Sarkisian’s coalition government. “A general amnesty would have been the best solution.”
Sarkisian has so far been willing to pardon only a handful of opposition detainees who confessed to the accusations mainly stemming from the March 1 deadly clashes between opposition protesters and security forces. He reportedly ruled out a general amnesty this week. A spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) predicted on Monday that the PACE will not after all sanction Yerevan.
The Orinats Yerkir Party, another member of the HHK-led coalition, also does not seem to share Dashnaktsutyun’s concerns. Heghine Bisharian, Orinats Yerkir’s deputy chairwoman, said Thursday that “nothing serious” will occur if the PACE follows through on its threats. “The country will continue to lead a normal life, whether or not it has a vote [in the PACE,]” she told RFE/RL.