Armenia’s parliament has decided to send a fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh that will investigate local authorities’ violent response to members of an Armenian opposition group attempting to rally supporters in Karabakh.
The delegation formed by speaker Galust Sahakian on Wednesday comprises lawmakers affiliated with all but one factions of the National Assembly. The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) refused to name a representative to the delegation on the grounds that the Karabakh leadership is primarily responsible for what Levon Zurabian, a senior HAK figure, called an “atrocity.”
The HAK and virtually all other major opposition parties have strongly condemned the Karabakh police for using unprovoked force against dozens of activists of the Founding Parliament opposition movement at the Karabakh border on Saturday. The activists planned to hold a rally in Stepanakert as part of their ongoing campaign for regime change in Armenia. More than a dozen of them were beaten up and injured.
Koryun Nahapetian, a pro-government Armenian deputy, said he and the other members of the fact-finding team will meet officials in Stepanakert to try to clarify details and causes of the violence. Tevan Poghosian, an opposition member of the delegation, said it will likely present a report to the National Assembly after the visit.
“I will refrain making any evaluations until our deputies return and give us objective information about what happened in reality, who provoked [the violence] and what caused such a disproportionate response,” said Naira Zohrabian, a senior lawmaker from the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the parliament.
The Karabakh police have claimed that they used force in order to prevent violent clashes between the radical oppositionists from Yerevan and Karabakh Armenians angry about the Founding Parliament’s desire to take its anti-government campaign to the unrecognized republic.
Bako Sahakian, the republic’s president, appeared to back this version of events at an emergency meeting with senior Karabakh officials on Tuesday. He at the same time ordered the Karabakh police to conduct a “meticulous internal inquiry” into the incident that caused an uproar in Armenia.
Artur Aghabekian, Karabakh’s deputy prime minister, told local television after the meeting that the inquiry should identify those responsible for the “provocation.” Aghabekian declined to specify whether he thinks that the police actions were justified.
But he did criticize the Founding Parliament leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, for organizing the procession of cars despite warnings from Stepanakert. In his words, Sahakian told Sefilian recently that street protests are a “luxury” for Karabakh given an upsurge in deadly ceasefire violations along “the line of contact” with Azerbaijan.
Aghabekian, who is a prominent member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), also seemed to acknowledged that a 12-minute video of the incident, which shows Karabakh policemen beating up the oppositionists and vandalizing their cars, has embarrassed the authorities in Stepanakert. He condemned those who filmed and posted the footage on the Internet.