Senior pro-government lawmakers in Yerevan gave on Monday diametrically opposite assessments of the latest Council of Europe report criticizing the Armenian authorities’ investigation into the 2008 post-election violence.
In the extensive report released on Friday, the council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) expressed concern about the reported ill-treatment of dozens of opposition members arrested following the February 2008 presidential election. It said the authorities must finally make it clear to security bodies that the illegal practice is “will be dealt with severely in the form of criminal prosecution.”
The report also called for a “public inquiry” into the March 2008 clashes in Yerevan between opposition supporters and security forces which left ten people dead. It is based on the findings of a CPT team that visited Armenia in the aftermath of the unrest.
David Harutiunian, chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on legal affairs, said the authorities should take the criticism seriously and come up with an “plan of immediate actions” to address it. “Naturally, reading CPT reports is not always pleasant because they are usually very critical,” he told RFE/RL. “Nevertheless, I believe it is very important to publish them because that restrains both the authorities and the public.”
Asked whether he agrees with the report’s conclusions, the former justice minister said: “Not only do I agree but also think that we will probably to turn it into a legal requirement by means of legislative changes.”
Harutiunian, who also heads the Armenian delegation at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Delegation (PACE), reacted similarly to another report that was released by an OSCE watchdog earlier this month. The report criticized the trials of jailed oppositionists.
By contrast, deputy parliament speaker Samvel Nikoyan, rejected the CPT criticism as politically motivated and unfounded. He specifically faulted the Council of Europe watchdog for calling into question the credibility of the official criminal investigation into the clashes.
“Just because of such an evaluation, you can put aside that document,” Nikoyan told RFE/RL. “They make a political evaluation of legal matters for some reasons … I wouldn’t say they used such phrases out of friendly motives.”
Nikoyan insisted that there were only “isolated cases” of police brutality during the probe and that an hoc commission of the Armenian parliament headed by himself has already conducted an independent inquiry into the events of March 2008. The commission essentially justified the use of deadly force against opposition protesters, provoking strong criticism from the Armenian opposition.