The Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Tuesday joined other opposition groups in criticizing a senior official from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) monitoring the political situation in Armenia.
John Prescott, a PACE co-rapporteur on Armenia, meanwhile, was reported to have praised ongoing “democratic reforms” in the country in his meetings with President Serzh Sarkisian and other senior officials.
“In the co-rapporteur’s words, positive changes are also obvious from the content of his meetings with Armenia’s politicians,” Sarkisian’s press office said in a statement.
HAK coordinator Levon Zurabian said he and other senior members of the opposition alliance told Prescott late on Monday that his evaluation of domestic political developments is “not adequate.”
“They [the PACE rapporteurs] come here and supposedly try to verify what has been done towards implementing one or another insignificant reform,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “That has absolutely nothing to do with real democratic processes.”
Prescott faced harsher criticism from leaders of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party after separate meetings held with them earlier on Monday. They said the British parliamentarian rudely dismissed their concerns about the freedom and fairness of the upcoming parliamentary elections and the overall political situation. A Dashnaktsutyun leader suggested that he is secretly collaborating with the Armenian authorities.
Prescott arrived in Yerevan to assess the authorities’ compliance with a PACE resolution adopted last October. It urged them to hold “genuinely democratic parliamentary elections” and carry out other political reforms.
The resolution said that President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration has largely overcome the political fallout from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. The HAK and Zharangutyun strongly criticized this conclusion, saying that the authorities have failed to properly investigate the deaths of ten people during the unrest.
Prescott heard similar complaints at a meeting with relatives of opposition protesters killed in the March 1-2, 2008 clashes with security forces. “He didn’t let us raise any issue, which made us angry,” said Sarkis Kloyan, whose son Gor was shot death on that night. “He told us that he is not an investigator.”
Kloyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the relatives also wondered why the PACE declared that “the chapter on the March 2008 events can finally be considered closed for the Assembly.” “He skirted that question,” he said.
Prescott discussed the official inquiry into the unrest with Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian and Karen Andreasian, the state human rights ombudsman, on Tuesday.
A statement issued by Andreasian’s office said that Prescott “positively assessed the process of democratic reforms in Armenia.” According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the PACE rapporteur made a similar statement at a meeting with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Monday.
Prescott and Sarkisian discussed preparations for the May 2012 parliamentary elections later on Tuesday. The Armenian president was quoted by his press service as praising Prescott’s personal contribution to Yerevan’s “constructive relationship” with the PACE.