The Armenian government rejected on Thursday an opposition motion to officially mark the anniversaries of the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan, which left 10 people dead, as days of “state terror” victims.
A bill put forward by the Armenian National Congress (HAK) would add March 1 to a list of public holidays and remembrance days set by an Armenian law. The opposition party led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian wants it be declared a day of remembrance of the unrest victims and “national protest against state terror and repression.”
Predictably, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s cabinet formally objected to the bill during its weekly session. Justice Minister Arpine Hovannisian said the bill is based on the HAK’s politically motivated evaluation of actions taken by the Armenian government and security forces on March 1-2, 2008. It markedly differs from the official version of events.
By contrast, Hovannisian said, the holidays and remembrance days listed in the law in question are “not disputed by anybody.”
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, condemned the government’s decision essentially predetermining the bill’s rejection by the Armenian parliament. He said it shows that “the authorities feel guilty about the events of March 1.”
Eight protesters and two interior troop servicemen died on March 1-2, 2008 as security forces clashed with scores of Ter-Petrosian supporters who barricaded themselves in downtown Yerevan. The latter protested against what they saw as the rigging of a presidential election in which Ter-Petrosian was the main opposition candidate.
The violence was followed by mass arrests of Ter-Petrosian’s associates as well as other opposition activists and supporters. Nobody was prosecuted in connection with the ten deaths.
Outgoing President Robert Kocharian and Armenia’s current leadership have repeatedly defended the deadly crackdown, saying that it thwarted a coup d’etat planned by Ter-Petrosian. The opposition leader and his allies have brushed aside this explanation. They maintain that the authorities deliberately killed people to install Serzh Sarkisian as Kocharian’s successor.