By Astghik Bedevian and Tigran Avetisian
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will not after all impose sanctions on Armenia when it again discusses the political situation in the country early next week, a senior Armenian lawmaker said on Friday.
The PACE is scheduled to debate on Tuesday its Monitoring Committee’s recent recommendation to suspend the voting rights of its Armenian members because of the Yerevan government’s failure to release of dozens of opposition members arrested following the February 2008 presidential election.
The release of those oppositionists was a key point of two PACE resolutions on Armenia adopted in April and June. Meeting in Paris last month, the Monitoring Committee described them as “political prisoners” and said the Armenian authorities have failed to comply with those resolutions in full. The committee’s two Armenia rapporteurs, Georges Colombier and John Prescott, visited Yerevan last week to discuss the issue with President Serzh Sarkisian and other Armenian officials.
According to Avet Adonts, chairman of the Armenian parliament’s committee on European integration, they managed to convince Prescott and Colombier to reconsider their position. “I think that as a result of our explanatory work and the presentation of our further work and plans, members of the Parliamentary Assembly won’t resort to those sanctions,” he told RFE/RL. “I think that a tentative opinion to that effect has already been formed.”
Newspaper reports have said the Armenian leaders told the PACE rapporteurs that they are ready to amend Article 225 and Article 300 of the country’s Criminal Code in a way that would positively affect jailed opposition figures charged under them. The charges stem from the March 1 deadly clashes in Yerevan between opposition supporters and security forces.
The articles deal with provocation of “mass disturbances” and attempts to “usurp state authority by force” respectively. Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian on Thursday confirmed that the authorities intend to “revise” them.
Adonts, who is also a member of the Armenian delegation at the PACE, would not say if this is why he is optimistic. “No deals were made, but in my view, the timetable for our actions presented to the co-rapporteurs seemed to have been well received,” he said.
“This was not a concession, this was a presentation of the work that we were supposed to do anyway,” added Adonts.
Also planning to attend the PACE session in Strasbourg are two senior representatives of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), Levon Zurabian and Arman Grigorian. The alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has welcomed PACE officials’ criticism of Yerevan but stopped short of explicitly urging them to follow through in their sanction threats.
Grigorian said he and Zurabian will meet parliamentarians from various Council of Europe member states on the sidelines of the session. “We want the PACE to make the right decision and we will do everything to make sure that they sufficient information and know the HAK’s views,” he told RFE/RL. “We are not going there to fight with the other Armenian delegation. Our task is to present the political situation in Armenia in an objective manner.”
Grigorian cautioned, however, that the HAK “doesn’t overestimate the PACE’s role” in efforts to end Armenia’s post-election political crisis and democratize its political system.
(Photolur photo: Avet Adonts.)