The National Assembly agreed on Tuesday to debate an opposition-drafted resolution condemning the use of lethal force against opposition protesters in Yerevan in the wake of Armenia’s disputed 2008 presidential election.
The parliamentary resolution put forward by the opposition Yelk says that supporters of opposition leader 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 ten people dead. The statement demands that law-enforcement authorities at last identify and prosecute those responsible for the killings.
The parliament unanimously voted to include the draft resolution on its agenda even though its standing committee on legal affairs gave a formal negative assessment of the document last week. Gevorg Kostanian, the incoming committee chairman affiliated with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), criticized the Yelk motion.
Addressing fellow lawmakers before Tuesday’s vote, Yelk’s parliamentary leader, Nikol Pashinian, again blamed the authorities for what was the worst street violence in Armenia’s history. “Ten years ago the police illegally used force against citizens fighting protesting against the falsification of the presidential elections, as a result of which ten people were killed in the center of Yerevan,” he said.
“Serzh Sarkisian managed to seize power only thanks to those killings,” charged the outspoken politician who played a major role in Ter-Petrosian’s 2007-2008 opposition movement.
HHK lawmakers rejected such claims during parliamentary hearings on the unrest that were chaired by Pashinian earlier this week. Significantly, one of those lawmakers, Samvel Nikoyan, blamed not only Ter-Petrosian but also Kocharian for the bloodshed. Nikoyan disputed Kocharian’s March 2008 claim that some of the protesters shot at security forces.
Ter-Petrosian, who had served as Armenia’s first president from 1991-1998, was the main opposition candidate in the February 2008 presidential ballot. He rejected as fraudulent official vote results that gave victory to Sarkisian.
Many Ter-Petrosian supporters took to the streets to demand a re-run of the vote. 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.
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, 2008 shortly after Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered Armenian army units into the capital.
Dozens of opposition figures, including Pashinian, were subsequently arrested and prosecuted. The parliamentary statement proposed by Yelk also demands that Armenian prosecutors review those “fabricated” criminal cases.