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April 30, 2004




Crackdown on Crackdown: Council of Europe scolds Armenia


Political unrest in Armenia was placed on the agenda of discussions that included Kosovo and Cyprus when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe met this week.

When the discussion ended and resolutions were passed, Armenia was chastised for recent police crackdowns on oppositional demonstrators and threatened with Council sanctions for government behavior “contrary to the letter and spirit” of previous Council recommendations.

The resolution demands that officials release citizens arrested during the past month of political protests and that the government lift its ban on mass assembly.

The PACE committee (which monitors conditions in the 45-member states) has given Armenia until September to comply with demands that the government, among other matters, “guarantee freedom of movement inside Armenia”.

Council of Europe sanctions would be imposed against Armenia if, after the five-month deadline, human rights and other conditions are not satisfactorily improved.

In its resolution, PACE touched upon the Referendum of Confidence and demands that President Robert Kocharyan resign.

“Insisting that authorities of Armenia must fully meet obligations concerning last year’s elections, the Assembly believes that the opposition, fully enjoying the right for conducting peaceful demonstrations, must strive to achieve its objects in accordance with the constitution.”

The Assembly also called upon opposition and authorities to, “avoid any acts, which can lead to future acts of violence and begin dialogue without preconditions.”

This week oppositionists, responding to Speaker of the National Assembly Artur Baghdasaryan’s initiative, have begun “political consultations” on Monday and Tuesday, however, they were very quickly interrupted.

Deputies of “Ardarutiun” (Justice) faction Victor Dallakyan and Arshak Sadoyan stated that they are not going to participate in consultations any more because two of ten requirements and offers presented by them have already been violated.

First, they claim, authorities continue to violate the Constitutional guarantee for freedom of movement. (According to opposition, during demonstrations all roads leading to Yerevan from regions are blocked by police.)

And secondly, despite the opposition’s demand to “postpone the discussions of the draft law on ‘demonstrations, mass meetings and marches’ until their return to Parliament, authorities put it to vote and adopted the draft law in the second reading.”

Earlier this week Minister of Defense Serj Sargsyan denied that political persecutions take place in Armenia.

“I believe there are no political persecutions and all talks about blocking the roads and other are false information and methods for justifying their idleness,” the Minister told reporters.

One of the reporters insisted that he himself saw how the roads had been blocked but the Minister said that authorities were simply “checking” and not “blocking”.

“It is the obligation of the police,” said Sargsyan. “When aggressive political forces state they are going to change power by force, police simply have to conduct checks.”

In other international focus on Armenia, on Thursday the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed its concern over “an alarming lack of progress” in finding perpetrators responsible for recent attacks on oppositional sympathizers and leaders.

“There is a need for an urgent, efficient and fair investigation of these cases, resulting in the prosecution of the perpetrators in accordance with the law,” said Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin, head of OSCE’s Yerevan office, in a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanian.

(Information for this report was also supplied by www.armenialiberty.org)


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