The National Assembly is poised to launch a new parliamentary inquiry into the 2008 deadly post-election violence in Yerevan following an agreement reached by its pro-government majority and opposition factions.
The parliament’s committee on legal affairs on Friday unanimously backed the idea of setting up an ad hoc commission that would investigate the legality of police actions against thousands of opposition supporters demanding a rerun of a disputed presidential election. The commission would also try to identify those who killed eight protesters and two police servicemen on March 1-2, 2008. Nobody has been prosecuted for those deaths.
The new inquiry was demanded last fall by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) of Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition candidate in the February 2008 election. The parliament majority controlled by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said it will agree to the probe only if the HAK agrees to postpone its launch until after the February 2013 presidential ballot. Ter-Petrosian’s bloc accepted that condition.
“The purpose of the commission is to uncover the truth,” said Davit Harutiunian, the HHK-affiliated chairman of the parliament committee. He said the HHK majority will honor its pledge and ensure that the commission’s formation is approved by the full National Assembly.
Gagik Jahangirian, an HAK lawmaker, likewise expressed confidence that the committee vote will pave the way for the probe. He said the ad hoc commission will have seven members and three of them will represent the HHK and its junior coalition partner, the Orinats Yerkir Party. The four other parliamentary factions will each name one of the remaining commission members, according to Jahangirian.
The previous Armenian parliament already conducted such an inquiry boycotted by opposition lawmakers. It concluded in September 2009 that the use of force against the protesters, who barricaded themselves in downtown Yerevan was “by and large legitimate and adequate.” It said that there were only isolated instances of excessive force used by security forces.
The HAK shrugged off this conclusion at the time, saying that it is part of a government cover-up of what was the worst street violence in Armenia’s history.
The Armenian authorities say that the violence resulted from Ter-Petrosian’s attempt to forcibly seize power. Ter-Petrosian and his associates insist, however, that the authorities deliberately used lethal force to enforce the results of the “rigged” election.