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Opposition Has ‘No Expectations’ from Clash Probe


Armenia -- Riot police confront opposition protesters in Yerevan on 01Mar2008.

Armenia -- Riot police confront opposition protesters in Yerevan on 01Mar2008.

An opposition party represented in Armenia’s parliament has “no serious expectations” from the final report that the legislative body’s ad hoc commission conducting a probe into last year’s post-election unrest is set to unveil by mid-September, its representative said on Tuesday.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Vartan Khachatrian, political secretary of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, said “it was clear from the very outset that the work of the commission could not be effective and that it would fail to meet the expectations of the public.”

“First of all, because the commission set up by law in fact lacked powers that would be beyond the powers of a rank-and-file parliamentarian,” explained Khachatrian, adding that he expects the commission’s findings to vindicate the authorities for the use of force in dispersing opposition demonstrations in the wake of last year’s disputed presidential election. Ten people, including eight civilians, died in Armenia’s worst street violence on March 1-2, 2008.

Khachatrian said that people involved in the commission were also in power during the post-election developments and to some degree bear responsibility for the blood shed in the clashes and, therefore, would not challenge the ‘official’ version of the events presented by the government.

“We strongly believe that this report will not be useful even for partially relieving tension in society,” said the Zharangutyun representative, stressing that a failure to have a full revelation of the March 1 violence could have a negative impact on the image of Armenia, which is still under the monitoring of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) over its handling of the political crisis.

Meanwhile, Galust Sahakian, head of the parliamentary faction of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), ruled out that the commission’s report would put Armenia’s image and democratic credentials in jeopardy.

“The commission has worked quite thoroughly. It is clear to all that the concerned European structures will provide their evaluations. I think the commission’s work in the professional environment will be judged positively,” said Sahakian.

At the same time, Sahakian regretted that the commission report will not shed light on the circumstances of the ten deaths on March 1-2, 2008. But he added: “This has not been the commission’s function to establish those.”

Last week, the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) called the commission’s expected report “a fiction” that will “disregard the existing evidence” in favor of the authorities’ ‘official’ version of the events and, furthermore, “will be drawn up in government offices’ rather than by the commission itself.

Artyusha Shahbazian, a member of the ad hoc commission representing the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashkatsutyun), described the media reports claiming that the final report is being “written at the prosecutor’s office and would not be published without the president’s approval” as ‘lies and slander’. He told RFE/RL that the report is being written by “independent law experts and members of the commission.”
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