By Learning from Mistakes Armenia Will Forge New Policies, Says Presidential Aide

Armenian Presidential Advisor Vigen Sargsyan

GLENDALE–Armenia’s Presidential Advisor Vigen Sargsyan Wednesday told Horizon Television, in an exclusive interview, that Armenian authorities are ready to learn lessons from recent developmen’s in Armenia and forge new political policies.
Sargsyan is scheduled to represent Armenia’s government at a hearing Wednesday organized by the Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe–the so-called Helsinki Commission–which will address the aftermath of Armenia’s presidential elections.
During the interview with Horizon TV’s Alisa Petrossian, Sargsyan also emphasized that the lessons learned from the post-election unrest should serve as a lesson for each Armenian around the world to come together and unite behind the Republic of Armenia, since unfriendly nations–enemies–have used the unrest to threaten Armenia’s national security and hinder its image internationally.
“Azerbaijan, which itself does not have a clean human rights record and has political prisoners, used the events in Armenia to introduce resolutions in the United Nations, criticize Armenia’s human rights record and even through force threaten the security of Armenia,” explained Sargsyan referring to immediate action Azerbaijan undertook in the aftermath of the post-election unrest.
“From this crisis we can either emerge more united or further divided. There is a serious imperative for us to unite as a nation,” said Sargsyan, adding that it is each Armenians responsibility to understand the situation and act accordingly.
The presidential advisor explained that the Helsinki Commission hearings were quite normal, as Armenia is a member of the OSCE, of which the US is a member, has certain obligations. He added that similar hearing had taken place in 1996 in the aftermath of the presidential elections, when a very negative assessment was given to Armenia.
Sargsyan said the hearing will serve to provide proper perspectives on the issues and clarify misunderstandings within the international community.
The presidential advisor conceded that changes to a law on public gatherings and demonstrations were rushed and examples of similar instances in European countries were not properly characterized, as such, he said the government was willing to revisit the matter.
On Wednesday, after meeting with experts of the Council of Europe’s so-called Venice Group, the Armenian parliament decided to amend the changes and will draft a memorandum to that effect to be presented to the necessary European bodies.
Sargsyan emphasized that Armenia, as a member of European institutions, has certain obligations to those bodies and as such will ensure to conform with the norms represented in the European Convention on Human Rights and other such documen’s to which Armenia is a signatory.
“The right to assemble is a fundamental human right that ensures freedom of expression,” Sargsyan said.
On the issue of political dialogue with non-parliamentary political forces, Sargsyan said that the president, on several occasions has extended that opportunity. The presidential adviser, however, cautioned that all non-parliamentary opposition should not be viewed as one group.
“Levon Ter-Petrosian does not represent all opposition forces,” said Sargsyan, adding that a large number of groups and individuals opposing the current government and not represented in parliament have come out against the policies, approaches and statemen’s made by Armenia’s first president.
He explained that there were two elemen’s in formulating a political dialogue policy.
Sargsyan explained that per the constitution, whoever wins a presidential election becomes the president, whereas parliamentary elections divide a political force’s leverage based on the percentage of the popular votes garnered by the given party.
He added that since Ter-Petrosian opted to not take part in June’s parliamentary elections, during which his party could have gained representation in the legislature, he relegated the chance to become an opposition represented in the parliament.
“Ter-Petrosian represents a radical opposition and speaks for radical elemen’s in the country,” said Sargsyan, adding that despite this, the president on several occasions has left the door open for dialogue.
“The ball is in Ter-Petrosian’s court,” said Sargsyan.
The presidential aide also said that during the last 10 years, various elemen’s in Armenia have attempted to turn individuals who have been charged with criminal acts into political prisoners.
Referring to individuals arrested following the March 1 events, Sargsyan said that each person has been charged with a specific criminal act. Further assessment of those cases might prove whether the indictmen’s were legal or not.
“Nevertheless, as a member of European institutions, Armenia also belongs to the European Court of Human Rights. As such, each individual is free to take its case to that court and have that entity determine the fate, after all legal options in Armenia have been tired,” explained Sargsyan.
He also emphasized that Armenia has asked the UN and the OSCE for inquiries on the matter.
Armenian Prosecutor-General’s Office spokeswoman Sona Truzian told RFE/RL on Wednesday that they had sent written offers to the OSCE and the United Nations representations in Yerevan regarding involving international experts, however, according to her, the offers were not accepted, with absence of such a precedent cited as a reason. The spokeswoman added, however, that in any case Armenian prosecutors would be willing and grateful to international structures if they could provide expert assistance and were ready to ensure all proper conditions for international specialists’ work.

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