The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) appears to have decided not to discuss the political situation in Armenia and the possibility of imposing sanctions against the Yerevan authorities at its upcoming quarterly session.
The issue is not included on the tentative agenda of the session posted on the Council of Europe website.
In a fresh resolution on Armenia adopted in late January, the PACE again deplored the continuing imprisonment of dozens of Armenian opposition members and supporters arrested following the February 2008 presidential election. But the Strasbourg-based assembly backed down on its threats to suspend the voting rights of its Armenian members, citing Yerevan’s pledge to amend Criminal Code articles used against the most prominent of the arrested oppositionists. It instructed the PACE’s Monitoring Committee to monitor the fulfillment of that pledge and “propose any further action to be taken by the Assembly” ahead of its next session scheduled for April 27-30.
The Armenian parliament passed the promised amendments on March 18, leading state prosecutors to drop coup charges brought against seven opposition figures accused of organizing the deadly post-election clashes in Yerevan. None of them was set free, however. A total of more than 50 loyalists of opposition Levon Ter-Petrosian remain in jail.
Meeting in Spain late last month, the Monitoring Committee deferred making any recommendations on Armenia to the PACE. In a subsequent statement, its two Armenia rapporteurs, John Prescott and Georges Colombier, welcomed the changes in the Criminal Code but stressed that “it is the application of these amendments that will ultimately count.”
“We hope that the authorities, and especially the Prosecutor General, will now follow the clear signal made by the National Assembly,” said Prescott and Colombier. “We repeat that the Assembly has demanded that all persons deprived of their liberty in relation to the events of 1 and 2 March, and who did not personally commit violent crimes, should be released.”
David Harutiunian, a senior lawmaker heading the Armenian delegation at the PACE, confirmed on Tuesday that the full assembly will almost certainly not debate Armenia’s compliance with its resolutions at its April session. “It is expected that issue will only be discussed at a meeting of the Monitoring Committee to be held during the April session,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL. “At the moment the issue is not deemed urgent enough to warrant an assembly debate,” he said.
Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) was quick to criticize the PACE leadership’s stance. “It is clear that many provisions of the three PACE resolutions have not been fulfilled,” Arman Grigorian, the HAK’s representative to the Council of Europe, told RFE/RL. “And yet they have decided to remove the issue from the agenda. That raises some questions about the PACE’s credibility.”
“I still don’t know the logic behind that decision,” said Grigorian. “I will try to understand it when I visit Strasbourg later this week.”
The HAK similarly criticized the Council of Europe body when the latter gave the Armenian authorities another reprieve last January. Representatives of the opposition alliance were then highly skeptical about PACE officials’ assurances that the Criminal Code amendments will result in the release of all “political prisoners.”