By Karine Kalantarian in Strasbourg
Armenia looked set to avoid sanctions by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly of (PACE) on Monday after pledging to enact legal amendment that could result in the release of dozens of arrested opposition members.
The PACE is scheduled to debate on Tuesday its Monitoring Committee’s recent recommendation to suspend the voting rights of its Armenian members because of the Yerevan government’s failure to release all “political prisoners.”
The committee on Monday again discussed the matter and decided to urge the assembly not to penalize Yerevan for now, all but predetermining the outcome of the debate. David Harutiunian, head of the Armenian parliamentary delegation in Strasbourg, told reporters after the meeting that the panel will continue to closely monitor political developments in Armenia.
According to Armen Rustamian, another member of the delegation, officials in Strasbourg feel that Armenia’s leadership now has the “political will” to fully comply with the two PACE resolutions that demanded the immediate release of opposition members arrested following the February 2008 presidential election. Both he and Harutiunian said the PACE will revisit the issue at its next session in April.
That Yerevan will avoid losing its PACE vote this time around was indicated by Lluis Maria de Puig, the 47-nation assembly’s president, earlier in the day. De Puig said the Armenian authorities assured the Monitoring Committee’s visiting representatives recently that they will amend two articles of the Armenian Criminal Code used against the most prominent of the opposition detainees.
The articles deal with provocation of “mass disturbances” and attempts to “usurp state authority by force.” Rustamian said the planned revision of these clauses will enable Armenian prosecutors to “reconsider” their decisions against jailed supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian facing corresponding accusations. He said the Armenian parliament will pass the amendments in time for the PACE’s April session.
(Photolur photo: Lluis Maria de Puig.)