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Monday, 29 September 2008

Commissioner Hammarberg calls for independent inquiry into 1 March events and finds unacceptable the situation re political prisoners in Armenia

Armenia: Commissioner Hammarberg releases his findings on the investigation of March events

Strasbourg, 29.09.2008 – “There is an urgent need to reach a satisfactory solution for prisoners and to hold accountable those responsible for the March events.” With this main message, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, published today his summary of findings on a visit to Armenia carried out last 13-15 July to weigh the progress made in investigating the violent events which ensued following the demonstrations after the Presidential election.

“The situation of persons deprived of their liberty continues to be a source of serious concern” said the Commissioner. “Questions persist as to the very nature of the criminal charges and the intent of the investigations carried out.” Commissioner Hammarberg also regretted that prosecution cases against 19 persons were based solely on police testimony.

The Commissioner was particularly concerned about the seven persons remaining in preliminary detention, including prominent opposition representatives. “It is unacceptable to continue to hold in detention or to convict – even to non-custodial sentences – anyone solely because of their political beliefs or non-violent activities.”

Furthermore, the Commissioner focused on the setting up of a national commission of inquiry. While welcoming the proactive approach of the Government in this regard, he recommended that continued efforts be made, in tandem with international expert advice, and through a broad and fully inclusive consultation process. “The establishment of a group of experts tasked with carrying out a comprehensive, independent, impartial, transparent inquiry, which would be perceived as credible by the whole population of Armenia, appears to be within reach. I hope that this opportunity will be recognised and will continue to meet with a constructive response by all the relevant actors.”

The summary of findings of Hammarberg's special mission to Armenia (13-15 July 2008) is available on the Commissioner’s website.

8 comments:

Ani said...

Is anybody else as tired as I am of mealy-mouthed Eurocrat diplospeak? What kind of "constructive response" is the current "proactive" government commission that just apparently decided that the March 1 violence was perpetrated by maurauding shoplifting piglets and sheep???
(linking to discussion on Nazarian's blog: http://hnazarian.blogspot.com/2008/09/are-they-trying-to-insult-us.html)

artmika said...

It is getting very tiring, true. But at least there is European structure out there which continues following the situation in Armenia and putting pressures on the authorities to fulfil their commitments (however unsatisfactory the process is). Yes, the language is… you described it pretty well, but there is an important nuance here. Hammarberg effectively dismisses parliamentary commission’s credibility by reiterating his call for truly independent inquiry and pressing for fact-finding mission to be formed with the equal representation of the authorities and the opposition (Ter-Petrosyan's congress + Heritage only).

Ani said...

I know in you're right in theory, but the comments are so very subtle that they can be ignored, just like the initial assessment of the February vote, which nobody read beyond the first sentence. (The OSCE might have learned something from that, at least, because they made a very negative assessment of Belarus's election, for what it's worth.)

The truth is that the "recommendations" have been nearly totally ignored, so why even damn with faint praise, when there is nothing to praise...

artmika said...

I am not praising them at all. In fact, I consider European observers with their preliminary "statements" as responsible party in 1 March events, and the fact that we still have political prisoners is in part because of their too subtle "Eurocrat diplospeak" on a Council of Europe level. But at the moment Hammarberg's commission is the only one which deals with the post-March developments in Armenia, and there are news reports that Serj's administration is working on amnesty decree (not that this would be my favourite way of dealing with the political prisoners' issue), and the work on forming representative (authorities/opposition) fact-finding mission is in process. Whether this will be realised or whether there will be any substantial changes out of this remains to be seen.

Recent developments (no proper inquiry, laughable if not so sad court hearings, ‘anti-A1plus’ law, existence of political prisoners, local 'elections', Muk the speaker...) do not give much hope for optimism, but I still believe that things cannot stay the way they are now. Well, there is possibility that they can turn to worse... But my hope for better has not been exhausted yet...

artmika said...

Excellent editorial in today's Aravot daily (in Armenian) re that rediculous "pig story" and the credibility of parliamentarian commission, in general.

Խոճկորի վարկածը

Երբ ՀՀ առաջին նախագահ Լեւոն Տեր- Պետրոսյանը կատակով խոստացավ ԱԺ «Մարտի 1-ի» հանձնաժողովի ներկայացուցիչ նշանակել «ՀՀՇ-ի Գեւորիկին», ես, ճիշտն ասած, մտածեցի, որ դա չափից դուրս կոպիտ հումոր է եւ քաղաքական գործիչներին հատուկ չափազանցություն: Բայց անցած ուրբաթ խորհրդարանական այդ հանձնաժողովում տեղի ունեցած քննարկումը ցույց տվեց, որ պետական այդ մարմնի նկատմամբ շատ ավելի քամահրական վերաբերմունք ունեն իրավապահները՝ ի դեմս նույն գործով քննչական խմբի ղեկավար Վահագն Հարությունյանի եւ մանավանդ՝ դատաբժշկության փորձաքննությունների գիտագործնական կենտրոնի տնօրեն Շոթա Վարդանյանի: Վերջիններիս ցինիզմի հետ համեմատած՝ Տեր-Պետրոսյանի վերոհիշյալ առաջարկը պարզապես թեթեւ, ընկերական հեգնանք էր: Որովհետեւ մարդը պետք է վերջնականապես «հոգեխանգարված» լինի քաղաքական հողի վրա, որպեսզի լրջորեն քննարկի «երիտասարդ խոճկորի» եւ «կարմիր գույնով ներկած զանգվածի» մասին վարկածները:

Նույն «սեւ հումորի» շարքին պետք է դասել, իհարկե, պնդումներն այն մասին, որ ընտրությունները կեղծում է ընդդիմությունը: Այդ դեպքում պետք է ենթադրել, որ ընդդիմադիր ոստիկանները ծեծում-ջարդում են իշխանության ակտիվիստներին ու տանում են նրանց ընդդիմադիր քաղմասներ, ընդդիմադիր դատախազները գործ են սարքում իշխանության համակիրների նկատմամբ, իսկ այնուհետեւ ընդդիմադիր դատավորները այդ մարդկանց դատապարտում են ազատազրկման՝ տարբեր ժամկետներով: Բայց եթե այդպես է, եթե ընդդիմությունը տիրապետում է պետական այդ հզոր լծակներին, ապա հասկանալի չէ, թե ինչու է նա համառորեն ձգտում իշխանության:

Նույնը՝ խոճկորի պատմությունն է: Եթե ԱԺ հանձնաժողովի անդամները չվիրավորվեն Վ. Հարությունյանի եւ Շ. Վարդանյանի ասածներից եւ չբողոքեն, թե ինչու են նրանց (անդամներին) հիմարի տեղ դնում, ապա նրանք պետք է ընդունեն եւ իրենց եզրակացություն-հաշվետվություններում գրեն, որ ընդդիմությունը, մարտի 1-ի հանրահավաքին նախապատրաստվելիս, իր հետ վերցրել է խոճկորի ծնոտ, ոչխարի (կամ հորթի) լեզու, կրակված պարկուճներ, ինչպես նաեւ կարմիր ներկ՝ այդ ամենը դեպքի վայրում շաղ տալու, նկարահանելու եւ ոստիկանական բռնությունների իմիտացիա ստեղծելու համար: Եվ քանի որ հանձնաժողովն ուսումնասիրում է ոչ միայն «դեպքերը», այլեւ «պատճառները», ես կարող եմ հուշել, թե ովքեր են ընդդիմությանը «խելքի գցել» նման քայլերի դիմելու: Ծրագիրը, ըստ ամենայնի, մշակվել է NDI-ի վաշինգտոնյան գրասենյակում՝ «Մոսադի», մասոնների եւ «նարնջագույն հեղափոխությունների» քաղաքական տեխնոլոգիաների մասնակցությամբ: Հենց Վաշինգտոնում էլ, հույժ գաղտնիության պայմաններում, մորթել են խոճկորին, այնուհետեւ «մարմնամասերը» ուղարկել են Հայաստան:

...Իհարկե, կարելի է շատ զվարճանալ մեր իրավապահների «կատակների» վրա: Եթե խոսքը չգնար իրական մարդկանց իրական արյան մասին:


ԱՐԱՄ ԱԲՐԱՀԱՄՅԱՆ

emma said...

Of course, we may consider the version of piglets and sheep absurd and even humorous. But what if the European structures voice the same in a few days. They will probably suggest forming another commission especially for investigating tongues and teeth and our authorities will provide them with "testimonial" piglets and sheep.

artmika said...

Armenia: PACE Monitoring Committee remains concerned about the limited progress with regard to the implementation of Resolutions 1609 and 1620

Strasbourg, 02.10.2008 - The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has received the report from the Human Rights Commissioner regarding his visit to Yerevan from 13 to 15 July 2008 and is extremely alarmed about its findings and conclusions that show that only limited progress has been achieved regarding key demands of the Assembly. The committee therefore invited the Human Rights Commissioner to return to Yerevan and report back to the committee at its meeting in Paris on 17 December 2008.

While noting the positive steps made regarding establishment of an independent and credible inquiry, the Monitoring Committee remains extremely concerned regarding persons deprived of their liberty in relation to the events on 1 and 2 March 2008.

In Resolution 1620 (2008), the Assembly made it clear that “the cases still under investigation should be closed or promptly brought before the courts”; “a verdict based solely on police testimony without corroborating evidence cannot be acceptable” and that “the cases under Articles 300 and 225 of the Criminal Code should be dropped unless there is strong evidence that the accused have personally committed acts of violence or ordered, abetted or assisted to commit them”.

In that respect, the committee took note that, while the investigations regarding persons in preventive detention have now closed, the cases against seven, all charged under articles 300 and 225, have not yet been brought before the courts as a result of the excessive length of the investigation. In addition, the committee is deeply concerned that the investigations regarding the responsibility for the ten deaths on 1 and 2 March have not yet been, or are not yet on the point of being, concluded.

Serious questions remain regarding the nature of the charges brought against people arrested in relation to the events on 1 and 2 March, as well as regarding the court proceedings of several cases, including with regard to the principle of a fair trial. In addition, and contrary to Assembly demands, 19 persons have been convicted on the basis of police testimony only. The committee is therefore seriously concerned that people may have been detained, and even convicted, based on political beliefs and non-violent activities, which is unacceptable to the Assembly.

The committee regrets that the Armenian authorities did not consider the possibility of amnesty, pardons, or any other legal means available to them, to resolve the situation regarding persons deprived of their liberty in relation to the events on 1 and 2 March 2008. It strongly urges the authorities to consider such options, which would result in major progress towards meeting the requirements of the Assembly.

The committee noted the positive steps regarding the establishment of an independent and credible inquiry as outlined in the report by the Commissioner. The committee expresses its full support for the proposals made by the Commissioner. It welcomes the constructive dialogue between the Armenian authorities and Commissioner on this issue and hopes that the remaining outstanding issues will be resolved soon in order for the expert group to start and finalise its work as soon as possible.

The committee is of the view that Armenia is on a threshold regarding the implementation of Resolutions 1609 (2008) and 1620 (2008). Now is the time for the Armenian authorities to show the political will to resolve this problem. The committee places its full trust in, and gives its full support for the work of the Human Rights Commissioner in this respect. Therefore, it would invite the Commissioner to make a follow-up visit to Yerevan and to report back to the committee at its meeting on 17 December 2008 on the progress made regarding the independent and credible inquiry and release of persons deprived of their liberty in relation to the events on 1 and 2 March. In December, on the basis of that report, the committee will make its decision on the actions, and possible sanctions, it will recommend to the plenary of the Assembly in January 2009.

Council of Europe

artmika said...

Armenia: Is this the light at the end of the tunnel?