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Opposition Bloc Wants Parliament To Condemn 2008 Crackdown


Armenia - Pictures of the ten people killed in the March 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan are displayed during an opposition rally marking its 8th anniversary, 1Mar2016.

The opposition Yelk alliance called on the Armenian parliament on Wednesday to condemn a 2008 post-election crackdown on opposition protesters in Yerevan which left ten people dead.

A parliamentary resolution drafted by Yelk also demands that Armenian law-enforcement authorities at last identify and punish those directly responsible for the bloodshed that followed a disputed presidential election.

Many supporters of the main opposition candidate, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, took to the streets at the time to demand a re-run of the vote that formalized a transfer of power from outgoing President Robert Kocharian to Serzh Sarkisian. Thousands of them barricaded themselves in downtown Yerevan on March 1, 2008 after riot police broke up nonstop demonstrations organized by Ter-Petrosian and his allies in the city’s Liberty Square in protest against alleged vote rigging.

Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed as security forces tried to forcibly end that protest as well. Ter-Petrosian urged his supporters to disperse early on March 2 shortly after Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered Armenian army units into the capital.

Armenia -- Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian make a human chain as they protest in Yerevan, 01Mar2008
Armenia -- Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian make a human chain as they protest in Yerevan, 01Mar2008

More than a hundred opposition activists and supporters were arrested in the following weeks. Most of them were tried and sentenced on highly controversial charges. Nobody has been prosecuted for the killings since then, despite law-enforcement authorities’ claims that they are continuing to investigate the unrest.

The parliamentary declaration proposed by Yelk condemns the use of “crude and illegal force against peaceful protesters” and “fabricated” criminal cases against oppositionists. It says that the authorities must identify and prosecute those who ordered or committed the killings. It also describes the February 2008 election as fraudulent.

Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) did not immediately react to the Yelk initiative, saying only that it is looking into the draft declaration circulated in the National Assembly. The HHK has previously blocked parliamentary inquiries of the 2008 unrest and financial compensations to the families of the ten victims demanded by other opposition forces.

A leader of Yelk, Nikol Pashinian, was confident that the motion will at least reach the parliament floor in time for the tenth anniversary of the tragic events. “The issue of March 1 will be discussed at a plenary session of the National Assembly in one way or another,” he said.

Armenia -- Nikol Pashinian is greeted by opposition supporters that barricaded themeselves in Yerevan on 1March 2008
Armenia -- Nikol Pashinian is greeted by opposition supporters that barricaded themeselves in Yerevan on 1March 2008

Pashinian, 42, was one of the main speakers at Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 post-election rallies. He went into hiding on March 2, 2008. The former newspaper editor subsequently surrendered to law-enforcement bodies and was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. He was set free in 2012 after spending about two years in prison.

Pashinian fell out with Ter-Petrosian before setting up his own political party called Civil Contract. The latter is one of the three opposition parties making up Yelk.

Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), which is not represented in the current parliament, has already announced that it will mark the tenth anniversary of the worst street violence in Armenia’s history with a demonstration in Yerevan.

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