A draft resolution that will be debated at its forthcoming session in Strasbourg welcomes the recent release of the last Armenian opposition members remaining in prison and the resulting dialogue between the ruling coalition and the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
The document drafted by the PACE co-rapporteurs on Armenia, John Prescott and Axel Fischer, also describes as “crucial” the proper conduct of parliamentary elections due next spring.
“The Assembly considers that the outcome of the latest general amnesty, the renewed impetus to investigate the ten deaths during the March 2008 events and the resulting start of a constructive dialogue between the opposition and ruling coalition mean that the chapter on the March 2008 events can finally be considered closed,” reads the draft resolution made public this week.
It says that in order to avoid a repeat of the March 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan, which left ten people dead, Armenia should hold “genuinely democratic parliamentary elections,” reform its law-enforcement and judicial systems and create a “pluralist media environment.”
The proposed resolution is a major boost to President Serzh Sarkisian and his coalition government. They have for years been under pressure from Western powers and structures to reverse a harsh crackdown on the HAK launched after the 2008 ballot.
Predictably, the HAK, whose leader Levon Ter-Petrosian was the main opposition presidential candidate in 2008, has condemned the document. Its representative to the Council of Europe, Arman Grigorian, on Friday accused the leadership of the Strasbourg-based assembly of siding with the Armenian government in its standoff with the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition.
“This is a manifestation of the fact that the PACE and the authors of this resolution have breached their impartiality and neutrality,” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“In essence, this is yet another carte blanche to Armenia’s authorities to continue the policy that they have long pursued,” he said.
Grigorian argued that the authorities are still investigating the deaths of eight opposition protesters and two security personnel on March 1-2, 2008 and have not identified anyone responsible for them.
Responding to HAK demands, Sarkisian ordered a “more meticulous” inquiry into the killings in late April. Law-enforcement bodies have reported no major progress in the renewed probe so far.
While praising Sarkisian’s order, the draft resolution reiterates PACE concerns about “the lack of results of the inquiry into the ten deaths” and urges Armenian investigators to operate more transparently.
Fischer visited Yerevan shortly after the start of the government-HAK dialogue in mid-July. “I am very satisfied with the start of this dialogue,” he said at the end of his fact-finding trip, which included meetings with Sarkisian and Ter-Petrosian.
The HAK subsequently suspended talks with the ruling coalition in protest against the controversial arrest of one of its activists. The draft resolution does not mention this fact.
“Even if the dialogue continued, the dialogue is not a solution in itself but a method of solving things,” said Grigorian. “The two things must not be confused.”
The HAK representative acknowledged that despite the opposition criticism, the PACE will almost certainly adopt the document without major changes at its next session scheduled for October 3-7.