The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) confirmed on Tuesday that its two senior members monitoring the political situation in Armenia have criticized the results of an Armenian parliamentary inquiry into last year’s deadly post-election violence in Yerevan.
The Armenian parliament set up a relevant ad hoc commission over three months after the March 1, 2008 clashes between security forces and opposition protesters demanding a re-run of a disputed presidential election.
In a 138-page report submitted to the National Assembly in September, the commission boycotted by the Armenian opposition concluded that the break-up of the protests, which left ten people dead, was “by and large legitimate and adequate.” It claimed that there were only isolated instances of excessive force used by law-enforcement officers.
John Prescott and Georges Colombier, the PACE rapporteurs on Armenia, assessed the report in an “information note” that was submitted the Strasbourg-based assembly’s Monitoring Committee on Monday. It was posted on the Council of Europe website the next day.
The rapporteurs welcomed recommendations made by the Armenian commission but dismissed as “one-sided” other parts of the report. “The comprehensive set of recommendations indicate that the Commission has made a far more in-depth analysis of the events of 1 and 2 March 2008 than is reflected in the rest of the report,” read their document.
“This contradiction, as well as the manner in which certain issues are either stressed or avoided, give the impression that the Commission wanted, at all cost, to avoid too overtly discrediting the official version of the events or too harshly criticizing the authorities on their handling of them,” it said. “This ‘self censorship’ is regrettable as it undermines the overall credibility of the inquiry.”
Prescott and Colombier were particularly critical of the commission’s description of events leading up to the clashes and “the practically total lack of discussion and analysis” of mass arrests of opposition members that followed them. “As the report of the Commission lacks any recommendations in this respect, a follow up inquiry into these aspects should be recommended,” they said.
They further deplored the Armenian authorities’ failure to clear up the circumstances in which eight civilians and two police personnel were killed during the unrest. The parliamentary inquiry also failed to shed more light on the deaths.
The PACE officials said, “There should be further efforts to trace any of the bullets that killed five of the 10 persons as a result of the events of 1 and 2 March 2008, to find the weapons that fired them, especially as there are indications that at least three of these bullets could have been fired by weapons that were used by the police during the events. Failure to properly answer these concerns could easily lead to allegations of foul play or cover up by the police.”
Armen Rustamian, a member of the Armenian delegation at the PACE, described the rapporteurs’ assessment as “on the whole objective” despite the fact that the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), of which he is a leading member, largely endorsed the parliamentary report.
Zaruhi Postanjian, another opposition parliamentarian representing Armenia in Strasbourg, was far more critical of Prescott and Colombier. She said they failed to suggest “concrete steps” that would address concerns expressed by them.
“I think this document is not satisfactory for us,” Postanjian told RFE/RL. “This is just an imitational type of activity.”