By Emil Danielyan
Armenia declined Friday to join the overwhelming majority of other Council of Europe member states in abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances, including during times of war.
Delegates from the 36 countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Italy, tightened a ban on capital punishment stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights. Protocol No. 13 to the convention, signed in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, abolishes capital punishment even in cases of war, imminent threat of war or "exceptional circumstances."
Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia declined to sign Protocol No.13. Reports from Vilnius said some of them will likely sign it later on.
But Turkey, Russia and Armenia have indicated they do not plan to do so, AFP reported, citing unnamed diplomats. They are the only Council of Europe members that have yet to ratify the original protocol of the pan-European charter banning the death penalty. They have instead observed a long moratorium on executions.
Armenia undertook to outlaw what the Council’s secretary-general Walter Schwimmer described on Friday as “barbaric punishment” when it became a full member of the respected Strasbourg-based organization in January 2001.
But many of its mainstream political parties are strongly opposed to its abolition until the end of the ongoing trial of five men that went on a shooting rampage in the Armenian parliament in October 1999. They believe that the authorities should be allowed to execute the perpetrators of the bloodbath.
However, Council of Europe officials have ruled out any exceptions from the rule, warning that Armenia will risk being suspended from the organization if it puts any of the defendants to death.