Ignoring strong protests from the Armenian opposition, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) declared late on Wednesday that President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration has essentially overcome the political fallout from Armenia’s 2008 post-election unrest.
In a resolution adopted at its autumn session, the PACE pointed to the release in late May of the last opposition members remaining in jail and a renewed probe of the unrest deaths ordered by Sarkisian. It also commended the Sarkisian government and the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) for starting landmark negotiations in July.
However, the resolution says nothing about the subsequent collapse of that dialogue which led the HAK to launch a campaign of nonstop anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan last week.
“The Assembly considers that the outcome of the latest general amnesty, the renewed impetus to investigate the ten deaths during the March 2008 events and the resulting start of a constructive dialogue between the opposition and ruling coalition mean that the chapter on the March 2008 events can finally be considered closed for the Assembly,” reads the resolution.
The HAK has strongly protested against this conclusion since the resolution was drafted and made public by the PACE’s two co-rapporteurs on Armenia, John Prescott and Axel Fischer, last month. It has accused the leadership of the Strasbourg-based assembly of siding with the Armenian government in its standoff with the opposition alliance led by Levon Ter-Petrosian.
HAK leaders argue that the authorities are still investigating the deaths of eight opposition protesters and two security personnel on March 1-2, 2008 and have not identified anyone responsible for them.
The PACE expressed concern about this fact, while acknowledging that those personally responsible for the ten deaths may never be punished. It said that in order to avoid a repeat of the March 2008 violence Armenia should, among other things, hold “genuinely democratic parliamentary elections.”
The resolution says in that regard that amendments to Armenia’s Electoral Code enacted in May created “an adequate basis” for the proper conduct of the elections due next spring. The HAK and other major Armenian opposition groups disagree with this assertion.
The PACE also deplored a lack of judicial independence and broadcast media pluralism in the country. But in a further boost to Sarkisian, it claimed that the Armenian authorities have the political will to “fully reform the police and police forces in line with European standards.”