The PACE has adopted several resolutions on Armenia since the March 2008 post-election clashes in Yerevan and the resulting government crackdown on opposition groups led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. It has threatened to impose sanctions against the Armenian authorities unless they properly investigate the unrest and free opposition members arrested on “seemingly artificial or politically motivated charges.”
The most recent PACE resolution adopted in June welcomed a general amnesty that led to the release of more than 30 oppositionists. But it said only the release of all Ter-Petrosian loyalists remaining in jail would “provide the necessary basis for the start of the dialogue and reconsolidation that is needed to overcome the political crisis.”
At least 14 individuals, who are considered “political prisoners” by the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition, remain behind bars at present. The authorities insist that none of them was jailed for political reasons.
Naira Zohrabian, a member of the Armenian delegation at the PACE, said there are no “sufficient prerequisites” for the 45-nation assembly to discuss Armenia’s compliance with the resolutions at its winter session that begins on Monday. “Of course the internal political situation here has some worrisome aspects,” she told RFE/RL. “But I think we will be able to overcome those problems.”
According to Zohrabian, the PACE’s Monitoring Committee will discuss early next week an “information note” that was submitted by its two rapporteurs on Armenia, John Prescott and Georges Colombier, last month. The document criticized the results of an Armenian parliamentary inquiry that essentially defended police actions in March 2008.
Zohrabian, who also took part in the inquiry, said she “categorically” disagrees with some of the rapporteurs’ conclusions. “I don’t agree with the view that we fully justified the police actions and found them legitimate,” she said.
Arman Grigorian, who represents Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) in the PACE, said Prescott and Colombier raised “quite serious” that should make the authorities draw “appropriate conclusions.” “In its several resolutions, the PACE has called for an impartial and credible investigation into March 1,” he told RFE/RL. “This is not that kind of a report. Therefore, the March 1 page will not be deemed closed.”
Grigorian said the PACE should also react to a seven-year prison sentence that was given to Nikol Pashinian, a prominent HAK figure and newspaper editor, this week. “That was a challenge against not only the people of Armenia but also the PACE,” he said.