Enough is enough! - this was the main message from the European Monitoring Committee to Armenian authorities. For the first time, the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) effectively acknowledges the existence of political prisoners in Armenia, the shameful fact which we knew very well for months now.
And no, I do not care that there are other countries in the Council of Europe with much poorer human rights records and without sanctions. Actually, I do care in a sense, and it’s shameful for the Council of Europe itself that such situation could exist. But I do not want to compare Armenia with such category of countries. I do not want to propose such a low threshold for Armenia.
Armenian authorities have to release all political prisoners not because it's important for the Council of Europe, but because it's important for us. There is no place for political prisoners in modern Armenia. Full stop.
Below are 2 crucial points from the draft PACE resolution which will be discussed at the end of January 2009. /emphasis mine/
5. The Assembly notes that doubts have been voiced regarding the nature of the charges brought under Articles 225 and 300 of the Criminal Code, as well as with regard to the legal proceedings against those convicted in relation to the events of 1 and 2 March 2008, including by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. The Assembly therefore considers that there are strong indications that the charges against a significant number of persons, especially those charged under Articles 225-3 and 300 of the Criminal Code and those based solely on police evidence, have been politically motivated. It follows that persons convicted on these charges can be considered political prisoners.
9. Notwithstanding positive developments in some areas, the Assembly finds it unacceptable that persons have been charged and deprived of their liberty for political motivations and that political prisoners exist in Armenia. Therefore, despite the positive steps taken towards the establishment of an independent, transparent and credible inquiry, the Assembly decides to suspend the voting rights of the members of the Armenian parliamentary delegation to the Assembly, under Rule 9, paragraphs 3 and 4.c, of the Rules of Procedure, until the Armenian authorities have clearly demonstrated their political will to resolve the issue of persons deprived of their liberty in relation to the events of 1 and 2 March 2008, in line with its demands, as expressed in Resolutions 1609 (2008) and 1620 (2008).
And here is official press release.
Charging persons for political motivation is ‘unacceptable’: PACE committee demands suspension of Armenia’s delegation voting rights
Strasbourg, 18.12.2008 – Declaring it “unacceptable” that persons could be charged and deprived of their liberty for political motivation in Armenia in relation to the events of 1 and 2 March 2008, the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) yesterday recommended suspending the voting rights of Armenia’s eight-member delegation to the Assembly until the authorities “have clearly demonstrated their political will to resolve this issue.” The co-rapporteurs would visit the country in January 2009, with a view to reporting back to the Committee on the first day of the January 2009 part-session on any progress with respect to the release of these persons.
In two earlier resolutions, the Assembly had made several demands following the post-electoral violence of March 2008, including the holding of an independent, transparent and credible inquiry into what happened, and the release of persons detained on “seemingly artificial and politically motivated charges” in connection with those events.
In its draft resolution, adopted yesterday in Paris, the Monitoring Committee welcomed the Armenian President’s creation of a fact-finding group of experts to look into the March events as an important step towards meeting the Assembly’s demands, but cautioned that its credibility would depend on how it conducts its work. They also expressed satisfaction at efforts to initiate reforms in the media, electoral legislation and the judiciary.
However, the parliamentarians said that “notwithstanding positive developments in some areas” the limited progress with regard to the release of the above mentioned persons meant the Armenian delegation should be deprived of its vote, if no further progress is reached in this request before the January 2009 PACE plenary session.
The Assembly is due to decide on the matter on Thursday 29 January during its forthcoming Winter plenary Session (26 – 30 January 2009).