The National Assembly rejected on Wednesday a draft 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 alliance 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 pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament agreed to debate the draft resolution even though its standing committee on legal affairs gave a formal negative assessment of the document last month.
Only nine members of the 105-seat legislature voted for the Yelk motion after a debate on the parliament floor. All of them are affiliated with the opposition bloc.
Fifty-six other lawmakers mainly representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) voted against the motion. The nominally opposition Tsarukian Bloc, which controls the parliament’s second largest faction, boycotted the vote, thereby refusing to back the Yelk initiative.
Ter-Petrosian, who had served as Armenia’s first president from 1998-2008, 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 Yelk leader Nikol Pashinian, were subsequently arrested and prosecuted. The parliamentary statement proposed by Yelk also demanded that Armenian prosecutors review those “fabricated” criminal cases.
Speaking in the parliament on Wednesday, Pashinian again demanded that Kocharian be questioned by law-enforcement authorities that claim to be continuing to investigate the worst street violence in Armenia’s history. He said the ex-president should specifically be challenged to prove his March 2008 claim that some opposition protesters fired gunshots at security forces.
Gevorg Kostanian, a senior pro-government deputy who served as the country’s prosecutor-general from 2013-2016, dismissed Pashinian’s demand. Kostanian said Kocharian’s claim was based on secret video filmed by security forces. He said they are not allowed to publicize it until their criminal investigation into the unrest is complete.