The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) again accused the Council of Europe of turning a blind eye to vote rigging and human rights abuses in Armenia as lawmakers from the Strasbourg-based organization met in Yerevan on Friday.
The HAK organized a small demonstration outside a Yerevan hotel where the Standing Committee of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) held a regular meeting to discuss issues on the organization’s pan-European agenda.
The meeting attended by some 80 PACE members also touched upon Armenia’s six-month presidency of the Council of Europe which began two weeks ago. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian was on hand to answer questions from participants. Virtually all of those questions related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, with none of the committee members inquiring about the domestic political situation in Armenia.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman also attending the meeting, deplored this fact. “The international community is turning a blind eye to problems with democracy human rights violations in Armenia,” he charged. “It is … solving very concrete geopolitical issues. It expects concessions from Armenia’s authorities on the Karabakh conflict and the Turkish-Armenian protocols.”
Zurabian repeated these claims when he joined about 100 HAK protesters later in the morning. “The main issue that they raised with Armenia was Nagorno-Karabakh and possible concessions related to it,” he told journalists. “They asked the foreign minister only questions about that. I’m sorry but I can conclude that what we have been talking about for years is true.”
The HAK and its leader Levon Ter-Petrosian in particular have repeatedly accused the Council of Europe of being exceedingly lenient towards the Armenian authorities for “geopolitical considerations.” Council of Europe representatives have denied this.
The PACE has passed several resolutions criticizing a government crackdown on Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement in the wake of Armenia’s disputed 2008 presidential election. Still, the most recent PACE resolution adopted in 2011 declared that authorities in Yerevan have essentially overcome the political fallout from the 2008 unrest.
PACE President Jean-Claude Mignon, who chaired the Standing Committee meeting in Yerevan, said that Armenia as well as neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan have made “important progress” in democratization since joining the Council of Europe more than a decade ago. But he acknowledged that “a lot of things have yet to be done” in all three South Caucasus states.
Thorbjorn Jagland, the Council of Europe secretary general, expressed confidence in March that President Serzh Sarkisian will carry on with democratic reforms after winning a second term in office.