Former Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian insisted on Thursday that the Armenian authorities have not deliberately avoided prosecuting anyone in connection with the deaths of ten people during the violent dispersal of 2008 post-election protests in Yerevan.
Kostanian, who was Armenia’s chief prosecutor from 2013-2016, also sought to justify his failure to ensure that those responsible for the casualties are identified and held accountable.
“Five years had passed [since the violence] when I became prosecutor-general,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Many witnesses were no longer in the country and it was hard to track them down. Secondly, many other witnesses said they don’t remember details when they were questioned.”
Kostanian, who was elected to the Armenian parliament on the ruling Republican Party’s ticket last year, said that throughout his tenure the country’s political leadership never tried to pressurize him into covering up the killings. “Nobody could have told me to do this or that on this case,” he claimed.
The worst street violence in Armenia’s history occurred about two weeks after a disputed presidential election that formalized the handover of power from outgoing President Robert Kocharian to Serzh Sarkisian. The main opposition candidate, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, refused to concede defeat, alleging serious fraud. Thousands of his supporters demonstrated on a daily basis in Yerevan.
Security forces quelled the protests on March 1-2, 2008. Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed as a result.
The authorities claim to be continuing to investigate all circumstances of the unrest. 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.
Kostanian likewise denied that the February 2008 election was rigged and this is what caused the ensuing bloodshed. He defended his decision not to question Kocharian as a witness, saying that the ex-president would have shed more light on the deaths. He further insisted that neither Kocharian nor any other high-ranking official ordered security forces to open fire at the protesters.