A Yerevan court on Tuesday rejected the last of lawsuits against law-enforcement authorities filed two months ago 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 at the time petitioned 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 also demanded financial compensation for what they see as the SIS’s “inactivity.” The Office of the Prosecutor-General, to which the SIS is subordinated, had rejected similar demands made by them earlier this year.
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 investigators claim that they are still trying to identify and punish those responsible for the fatalities. They say their failure to solve the killings can not be deemed “inactivity.”
Judges of the court of general jurisdiction of the city’s Kentron and Nork-Marash districts have accepted this assertion in separate rulings handed down this month. The latest ruling dismissed a joint suit filed by the families of Zakar Hovannisian and Davit Petrosian, two of the civilian victims of the worst street violence in Armenia’s history.
Petrosian’s mother, Jemma Vardumian, boycotted the verdict’s announcement by the presiding judge, Ruben Nersisian. “I saw no need to go into the courtroom because I knew what the court is going to decide,” Vardumian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Artak Zeynalian, an opposition figure representing plaintiffs, said they will challenge the rejections at Armenia’s Court of Appeals. “We are diligently and sincerely enabling the Armenian authorities to solve the issue by themselves,” Zeynalian told RFE/RL.
The plaintiffs are expected to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all possibilities of legal action in Armenia. The Strasbourg-based court has already received about 50 suits related to the 2008 clashes and the ensuing government crackdown on the Armenian opposition.
The SIS and other law-enforcement bodies have said all along that the opposition led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian provoked the clashes in a bid to seize power following a disputed presidential election. “It is evident that the actions of the law-enforcement system were adequate in terms of ending those mass riots,” Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian stated in the immediate aftermath of the unrest.