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Parliament Panel Refuses To Condemn 2008 Crackdown


Armenia -- Relatives of people killed in the March 2008 post-election clashes protest in downtown Yerevan, 7 April 2010.

A key committee of the Armenian parliament on Wednesday rejected an opposition-drafted resolution condemning the use of lethal force against opposition protesters in Yerevan in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in 2008.

The parliamentary resolution put forward by the opposition Yelk says that the supporters of the main opposition presidential candidate, Levon Ter-Petrosian, protested against “the falsification” of the results of the election that formalized the handover of power from outgoing President Robert Kocharian to Serzh Sarkisian.

It describes as “crude and illegal” the forcible dispersal of those protests on March 1-2 2008 which left eight protesters and two police servicemen dead. The statement demands that law-enforcement authorities at last identify and prosecute those responsible for the deaths.

The authorities claim to be continuing to investigate all circumstances of what was the worst street violence in Armenia’s history. They have at the same time defended the crackdown, saying that it was a necessary response to “mass disturbances” organized by Ter-Petrosian and his associates.

Not surprisingly, the parliament committee on legal affairs gave a formal negative assessment of the Yelk motion after discussing it at a meeting attended by Nikol Pashinian, one of Yelk’s leaders. The committee’s incoming new chairman, Gevorg Kostanian, criticized the document

Speaking at the meeting, Pashinian charged that Sarkisian came to power “as a result of a rigged election certified by blood.” He again alleged a high-level cover-up of the 2008 killings.

Pashinian was among dozens of opposition figures who were arrested and prosecuted on dubious charges in the wake of the deadly unrest. The parliamentary statement proposed by Yelk also demands that Armenian prosecutors review all of those criminal cases.

Kostanian, who served as Armenia’s prosecutor-general from 2013-2016, dismissed this demand. He said that the prosecutors would need “new facts,” not declarations, to clear the oppositionists of any wrongdoing. Pashinian insisted that they could easily find such evidence if they were really committed to solving the case.

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