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Armenian Parliamentary Probe ‘Unable’ To Answer Key Questions


Armenia -- Samvel Nikoyan, the newly elected deputy speaker of Armenia's National Assembly, 18May2009

Armenia -- Samvel Nikoyan, the newly elected deputy speaker of Armenia's National Assembly, 18May2009

An ad hoc commission of the Armenian parliament will give no answers to key lingering questions about last year’s post-election violence in Yerevan in a keenly anticipated report to be issued next month, its chairman, Samvel Nikoyan, said on Wednesday.

Nikoyan told RFE/RL that the commission has failed to ascertain the circumstances in which ten people were killed in vicious clashes between opposition protesters and security forces on March 1, 2008. In particular, he said, it was unable to determine who was directly responsible for the deaths of eight civilians and two police servicemen during its one-year work.

Armenia’s government and law-enforcement bodies blamed the opposition for those deaths. However, none of more than 100 supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian arrested in the wake of the unrest faced murder charges.

A lack of public trust in the official criminal investigation into the deadly clashes was instrumental in the establishment of Nikoyan’s commission in June 2008. Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) and other opposition groups refused to name representatives to the body, saying that it is dominated by pro-government lawmakers and therefore can not be objective.

The Armenian authorities subsequently agreed to set up another bipartisan body tasked with investigating the worst street violence in the country’s history. The government and opposition camps were equally represented in the Fact-Finding Group of Experts.

In its first and only report released in May, the five-member group called into question police claims that one of the police casualties, Captain Hamlet Tadevosian, was killed by a grenade thrown by a protester. Its two pro-government members strongly objected to the report, further aggravating their relationship with their opposition colleagues. President Serzh Sarkisian cited mounting tensions between them when he disbanded the investigating body on June 8.

The Fact-Finding Group’s two opposition members have since released more reports. One of them blamed security forces for the death of the other serviceman, Tigran Abgarian. Another report named interior troop officers who killed three protesters by mishandling tear gas.

“I consider that one of the theories and don’t want to refute or confirm any theory,” Nikoyan said, commenting on the documents submitted to his commission by the group and its individual members. “The commission can not deal with theories or present a theory in its report. Only people seeking to use that tragedy for escalating the political situation can do that.”

“Just as we didn’t take at face value information sent by state bodies, we are not taking at face value personal reports of members of the former Fact-Finding Group,” added the deputy speaker of the National Assembly. “We find very important elements and analyses there, but we won’t fully include them in our report.”

Nikoyan also said that the parliamentary inquiry will release its report in mid-September. The report will contain a detailed analysis of the March 1 events and decisions made by the authorities on that day, he said.

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