A Yerevan court opened Friday hearings on one of several lawsuits against law-enforcement authorities lodged by relatives of Armenians who died in the March 2008 post-election violence in the capital.
In four separate lawsuits, the families of all eight civilians and one of the two police servicemen killed during the unrest want the district court to rule that state prosecutors and their Special Investigative Service (SIS) have done very little to identify and punish those directly responsible for the deaths. The plaintiffs are also demanding financial compensation for what they see as the SIS’s “inactivity.”
The Office of the Prosecutor-General, to which the SIS is subordinated, already rejected earlier this year similar demands made by them. A senior prosecuted submitted a written explanation of that decision to the court as it began considering a lawsuit jointly filed by close relatives of three civilian victims.
The Armenian police and other law-enforcement bodies arrested over 100 opposition members and supporters in the wake of the deadly clashes between security forces and opposition protesters in downtown Yerevan. However, none of them was charged in connection with those deaths. Nor has any security official been prosecuted for use of deadly force against the protesters.
The SIS claims that is still trying to identify and punish those responsible for the fatalities. The law-enforcement body has said all along that the Armenian opposition provoked the clashes in a bid to seize power following a disputed presidential election.
“The murderers should have been identified by now, which has not been done,” Artak Zeynalian, an opposition figure and a legal representative of the three plaintiffs, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“If they wanted to, they would have solved the murders already in 2008,” said Zarik Artenian, whose son Samvel was fatally shot in the head on the night from March 1-2, 2008. “They have deliberately put the case to rest. They have been doing and saying only what’s beneficial for them.”
Artenian said punishing the person responsible for her son’s death “would calm my heart a little.” “Living is becoming more and more difficult,” she told RFE/RL.
Vahagn Harutiunian, a senior SIS official who has led the criminal investigation into the clashes, dismissed the lawsuit as an opposition gimmick. “There is no substance in the complaint,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Harutiunian insisted that his investigating team’s failure to solve the killings can not be deemed “inactivity.” “There are so many unsolved murders. Not only in Armenia but also all over the world. Is that inactivity?” he argued.
The same court of general jurisdiction of Yerevan’s Kentron and Nork-Marash districts was scheduled to start considering on Friday a separate appeal from the family of Tigran Abgarian, a 19-year-old interior troop conscript killed in the clashes. However, the opening hearing did not take place because of the absence of the presiding judge, Gagik Khandanian.
Court officials said Khandanian is attending a “seminar.” The explanation angered Abgarian’s relatives present in the courtroom. Some of them held up the young man’s pictures in protest.
“Put down the posters and pictures,” a court official told them. “They are not allowed in the courtroom.”