By Astghik Bedevian
The Armenian parliament on Wednesday extended by four months the mandate of its special commission investigating the circumstances of the worst street violence in the country’s history that occurred after last February’s disputed presidential election.
The commission, dominated by pro-government lawmakers, was formed in June and was supposed to deliver its verdict by the end of this month.
Its creation was the result of strong international pressure on the Armenian authorities to allow an independent investigation into the March 1 clashes in Yerevan between opposition protesters and security forces. An opposition boycott of the ad hoc body led the Council of Europe and other international bodies to question its ability to paint an objective picture of the post-election unrest that left ten people dead and more than 100 others wounded.
The authorities say they have accepted a Council of Europe proposal to form a smaller and more independent body tasked with collecting detailed information that would shed more light on the use of lethal force against supporters of opposition presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian. Under that proposal, the parliamentary commission would then assess those facts in its final report.
Sources told RFE/RL that President Serzh Sarkisian will likely form the fact-finding team comprising an equal number of government and opposition representatives by the end of this month. Samvel Nikoyan, a senior lawmaker heading the parliamentary inquiry, likewise said that the signing of a relevant presidential decree is imminent.
“I don’t think there is any delay,” Nikoyan told RFE/RL. “The group will be set up very soon. There is already agreement between all parties.”
According to Nikoyan and other officials, Armenia’s governing coalition and main opposition forces will each name two members of the group. Another member will be appointed by the state human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian.