By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The government re-introduced and pushed through the parliament on Friday Armenia’s new Criminal Code which was nearly killed by its opposition minority a week ago.
The cabinet evoked a special clause in the parliament statutes that allows for speedy debate on and passage of bills deemed urgent by the executive. Deputies rubber-stamped the proposed legislation in three separate readings in a matter of several hours.
The issue of capital punishment was the main obstacle to the Criminal Code’s passage earlier this month. The code formally abolishes the death penalty in peacetime in line with Armenia’s commitments to the Council of Europe. But it also contains a provision that allows courts to pass death sentences on the five jailed gunmen that seized the National Assembly in October 1999.
Opposition deputies say the special provision is not a sufficient safeguard against possible clemency for the attackers and thwarted the code’s passage in the third, final reading on April 11. Their attempts to again kill the bill with a vote boycott failed on Friday after the pro-government majority managed to mobilize its members.
Government officials rejected opposition calls to leave the matter to the next parliament which will be elected on May 25. “We think that the code must be adopted now, not any time later,” said Mikael Grigorian, a senior police official who introduced the legislation.
The Criminal Code, in its current form, is likely to be found unacceptable by the Council of Europe which has made it clear that any exceptions from the abolition of the death penalty run counter to its standards.