By Gevorg StamboltsianA senior official from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) monitoring the fulfillment of Armenia’s membership commitments faced on Friday more accusations of political corruption from government critics as he began an important fact-finding visit to Yerevan.
A prominent human rights campaigner added his voice to opposition claims that the Armenian authorities have effectively bribed Jerzy Jaskiernia, the Armenia rapporteur of the PACE’s Monitoring Committee, by sponsoring the recent publication of an Armenian version of his book about the Strasbourg-based assembly. “I state openly that I consider Jaskiernia’s book published in Armenia a bribe and will ask the Council of Europe to change our rapporteur,” Mikael Danielian of the Armenian Helsinki Association told RFE/RL.
The allegations were first made last week by some leaders of the opposition Artarutyun alliance, notably Aram Sarkisian. He said the book’s translation in Armenian and publication, financed by the leadership of the National Assembly, was a personal favor which Jaskiernia will have to reciprocate with a “corresponding” report on Armenia.
Jaskiernia, who specially visited Yerevan earlier this month to promote the book with parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, flatly denied any wrongdoing. “I do not understand such a statement because the book about the PACE will serve all Armenians taking an interest in the Council of Europe,” he told reporters. “I offered that book for free, I did not receive any gratitudes because of that.”
The Polish parliamentarian added that his report, which will be submitted to the upcoming session of the PACE, will be “objective.” “There is no chance of anybody influencing me in any way because I serve the Council of Europe and the Armenian people,” he said.
Jaskiernia is to report to the Strasbourg lawmakers on whether the Armenian authorities have implemented the recommendations of their recent resolution on the political crisis in Armenia. The resolution deplored their heavy-handed response to the opposition campaign for President Robert Kocharian’s resignation and demanded an immediate end to the crackdown.
Jaskiernia made it clear that the main focus of his meetings in Yerevan is the legitimacy of a “referendum of confidence” in Kocharian suggested by the Armenian Constitutional Court in April 2003. The rapporteur spoke out against the idea during the last PACE session in April. He spent the first day of the trip holding separate meetings with local human rights activists and representatives of the mass media.
Jaskiernia’s emphasis on the referendum issue enraged Danielian who walked out in protest mid-way through the discussion. “He should have invited lawyers, not human rights advocates,” he said.
Other participants sat through the meeting but also appeared dissatisfied with its course. One of them, human rights lawyer Tigran Ter-Yesayan, said with a grin: “He was kind of sleepy and nearly fell asleep.”
(Photolur photo: Jerzy Jaskiernia.)