The Council of Europe has become more indifferent to human rights abuses in Armenia lately because of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Western-backed policies on Turkey and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) said on Friday.
“Some [foreign] diplomats have directly told us about that,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator. “They have said that since dramatic processes are going on Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, it wouldn’t be quite productive to distract the Armenian leadership with other issues.”
“That exposes a connection about which have repeatedly spoken. We have said that unfortunately in order to further its foreign policy agenda the democratic world is turning a blind eye on human rights violations in Armenia,” he told RFE/RL, echoing statements made by the HAK’s top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian.
“Naturally, we can not put up with this situation,” added Zurabian. “We have explicitly told and will tell them that although we are grateful for their past activities, those activities can not justify their current passivity.”
The criticism followed the failure by the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) to hold a planned discussion on the political situation in Armenia during a meeting held in Paris on Thursday. The committee was due to specifically look into an Armenian parliamentary report that largely justified the use of deadly force against opposition protests that followed the disputed presidential election of February 2008.
According to Zaruhi Postanjian, the only opposition member of the Armenian delegation at the PACE, the discussion was cancelled because the PACE’s two rapporteurs on Armenia, John Prescott and Georges Colombier, failed to show up for the meeting. Speaking to RFE/RL from Paris, she claimed that they did so deliberately to prevent the PACE from discussing Yerevan’s compliance with its resolutions on Armenia at its next session due in late January.
Postanjian, who is affiliated with the opposition Zharangutyun party, said she suspects Colombier and Prescott of making a secret deal with the Armenian authorities and will therefore demand that the PACE leadership replace them by other rapporteurs.
In Zurabian’s words, the HAK is not making such demands yet as it still hopes that the two men will get tougher on the authorities. “We are still working with the current co-rapporteurs,” he said.
The rapporteurs’ behavior was defended by Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for President Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). “Even if the issue was discussed [by the Monitoring Committee,] I am sure it would hardly be included on the agenda of the PACE’s plenary session,” Sharmazanov said. He accused the opposition of continuing to “exploit” the 2008 post-election unrest for political purposes.