After long discussions and debates the recently
elected National Assembly of Armenia has officially
abolished the death penalty in Armenia and ratified
the Sixth Protocol of the European Convention
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The
decision was crucial to Armenia gaining membership
in the Council of Europe.
Of 131 deputies, 92 voted in favor of abolishing
the death penalty. One independent deputy, Manuk
Gasparyan, voted against it. Twenty two deputies
didn't take part at the voting while the whole
"Ardarutiun" bloc ("Justice")
consisting of 15 deputies boycotted.
the death penalty has been stormy, as deputies including "National Unity"
head Artashes Geghamyan have argued to maintain capital punishment so that guilty
parties in the October 27 1999 Parliament shootings might be executed. But Geghamyan
was among those who yielded to pressure to secure Armenia's good standing in the
Council of Europe.
The official vote was rendered September 9, but in fact
the death penalty has been abolished since August 1, when new criminal legislation
came into force. But that legislation included exceptions for certain crimes,
including acts of terror.
From now on the court has a right to award a death
penalty verdict only during war or in case of the threat of war when martial law
is declared in the country.
Vice Speaker of the Parliament Tigran Torosyan
assures that from this vote forward, no exceptions can be applied legally.
against abolishing the death penalty were mainly directed to the act of terror
taken place in the National Assembly on October 27, 1999 when an armed group headed
by Nairy Hunanyan entered the building of NA and killed Prime Minister of Armenia
Vazgen Sargsyan, Speaker of NA Karen Demirchyan and 6 other officials.
bloc "Ardarutiun" (which is headed by Stepan Demirchyan, the son of
murdered Speaker of the Parliament Karen Demirchyan) continues to insist that
abolishment of the death penalty is a guarantee for the terrorists.
"Vazgen Sargsyan was a leader of your party,"
said Victor Dallakyan of the "Justice"
bloc to the members of Republican party, "you
think that God must have added another commandment
to ones he has already given? Thou shalt not apostate."
Vazgen Sargsyan were here with us he would be the first to demand ratification
of the Sixth Protocol. You ought not to use the names of victims," said Torosyan
from "Hanrapetakan" party, in reply to Dallakyan.
the "Orinats Yerkir" party, Mher Shahgeldyan argued in favor of ratification
on the grounds that courts make mistakes, adding that Armenia's courts are far
Minister of Justice David Harutyunyan considers heated debate
a normal reaction to such a volatile issue.
"During the process of ratification of the
Sixth Protocol heated discussions were taking
place in almost all countries of the Council of
Europe and despite those discussions almost all
countries signed it," he said. "The
main reason for abolishing death penalty is not
that we are forced or we aren't to do that or
there can be mistakes made by the court. The murder
committed by the government doesn't differ from
the murder committed by a person."
Concerning the draft law on "Protection
of Human Rights", the 97-14 approval allows the president of the republic
to appoint an ombudsman as guardian of rights protection. (Activists had argued
that adopting the law would give a president too much power, and would turn the
ombudsman position into something like an executive committee.)
of PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) Peter Shider and General
Secretary Walter Shwimer welcomed the decision of the National Assembly concerning
the abolishment of the death penalty and ratification of the sixth protocol of
the European convention.
For the present moment 41 of 45 countries have
ratified or signed that protocol.