By Astghik Bedevian
Armenia’s sole opposition party in parliament is set to contest the constitutionality of the executive order by which President Serzh Sarkisian last month set up a new inquiry into the deadly post-election clashes in Yerevan.
Senior member of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party’s parliamentary faction Stepan Safarian said at a Friday press briefing in parliament that the faction is going to initiate a process of application to the Constitutional Court on this matter.
“Having this evaluation regarding this body, the Zharangutyun faction will, nevertheless, continue to take this process into a constitutional and legal framework,” said Safarian.
Zaruhi Postanjian, another leading representative of the seven-member faction, charged that the head of state is not empowered to issue orders for such juridical bodies as a political party or the Office of the Ombudsman or tell them what to do and determine their powers, rights and obligations.
“The rights and obligations in our country are defined by laws,” the lawmaker said.
President Sarkisian formed the Fact-Finding Group of Experts in late October after months of pressure from the Council of Europe and other international bodies distrusting the ongoing criminal investigation into the March 1 clashes. In an executive order, he offered the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) led by former president and current opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian and Zharangutyun to appoint two of the five members of the group. The three other seats in the body were filled by Sarkisian’s four-party governing coalition and the state human rights defender.
Eventually, the HAK and Zharangutyun agreed to send their representatives to the body but aired concerns over the legality of the presidential order as well as questioned the ultimate credibility of what is supposed to be an independent inquiry. They, in particular, fear that the Group may become “subordinated” to the parliamentary commission the activities of which both have boycotted on the grounds that it is controlled by pro-government lawmakers.
Earlier this week, Armenia’s human rights defender Armen Harutiunian also admitted a number of ‘legal flaws’ in Sarkisian’s executive order, but said his office lacked a legal occasion to formally challenge its constitutionality.
The Group for the first time met on Tuesday. Under the presidential order, no information is to published about the experts’ work until they complete their mission. The Group is due to sumbit its findings to the parliamentary ad hoc commission that has conducted its own inquiry since June.
Under Armenia’s constitution, an approval of at least a fifth of the 131-seat National Assembly is needed for a parliamentary application to the Constitutional Court.