By Tatevik Lazarian
The Armenian opposition is not as disappointed with the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s latest resolution on Armenia as its initial, negative reaction might suggest, an opposition leader said on Tuesday.
The PACE last week stopped short of explicitly calling the arrested Armenian opposition members “political prisoners” and suspending the voting rights of its Armenian members. The sanctions were envisaged by the initial version of the resolution drafted by the PACE Monitoring Committee at a December meeting in Paris.
The resolution was welcomed by the Armenian government but criticized by the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). Levon Zurabian, who was in Strasbourg during the PACE session, said it is based on “one-sided and false information” provided by the Monitoring Committee’s two Armenia rapporteurs, John Prescott and Georges Colombier.
“I think that document is by and large not that bad and creates the basis for working to free the political prisoners, and sets a particular course for restoring democratic freedoms,” Zurabian told reporters on Tuesday. “You will wonder why we reacted negatively to this document. Our reaction was negative because it was a step back from the draft resolution proposed by the Monitoring Committee on December 17.”
In backing down on its sanction threats, the PACE cited the Armenian government’s pledges to revise articles of the Criminal Code used for the prosecution of the most prominent of about 60 oppositionists remaining in prison. The government is understood to have promised that they will be set free as a result of those amendments.
“We do not trust in the guarantees given by the authorities,” insisted Zurabian. “The authorities are resorting to deceit to stall for time. And if the Council of Europe trusts in the guarantees given by the authorities, then from now on the issue of releasing the political prisoners will become the Council of Europe’s issue.”