By Armen Zakarian and Harry Tamrazian
Armenia’s highest Court ruled on Tuesday that the Armenian constitution is in compliance with the protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which restricts the application of death penalty to times of war or national emergency. Before leaving for France for an official visit, President Robert Kocharian sent a letter to the Constitutional Court asking to consider whether Armenia’s constitution is in compliance with protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The abolition of death penalty is a key membership obligation that Armenia had to fulfill after joining the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe requires outright abolition of death penalty by states wishing to join. The European organization also is accepting new members if they agree to a moratorium on death penalty only as an interim measure.
Armenia also announced moratorium on death penalty after it joined the Council of Europe in 2000 and pledged to abolish death penalty in one year. Since joining the 43-nation pan-European body, Armenia had asked several times to extend the deadline for the abolition of its controversial legal provision allowing the execution of the gunmen that attacked the parliament in October 1999. However in a resolution adopted last September, the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe warned that Armenia should abolish the death penalty unconditionally.
After the Constitutional Court interpreted the county’s main law in favor of the abolition of death penalty, the legal hurdle for amending the criminal code is cleared. The only remaining obstacle is the Armenian parliament. Some politicians still insist that the killers of the former Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament and of several other parliamentarians should get the capital punishment.
However, the local observers believe that the amendment would pass in the new parliament where the majority supports the abolition of death penalty. There are supporters of the abolition of death penalty even in Armenia’s main opposition alliance Artarutiun, who’s leader Stepan Demirchian believes that it is too early to amend the criminal code. Two prominent members of Armenia’s main opposition alliance Artarutiun, Vazgen Manukian and Shavarsh Kocharian came up with a strong support for the abolition of death penalty.
The Armenian Parliament will most probably consider the amendment in its autumn session. 42 Armenians are on death row now waiting for execution. Since its independence from the Soviet Union Armenia kept moratorium on death penalty.
Armenian leaders promised last week to the visiting delegation of the Council of Europe to speed up the fulfillment of the country’s obligations before 43-nation pan-European body, including abolition of the death penalty.