Draft Law on Public Gatherings Submitted to European Watchdogs

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–A draft law on public assembly, which is set to reverse restrictions placed on protests and rallies that were enacted following a declaration of emergency rule in the wake of post-election unrest has been sent to international experts for examination, National Assembly Speaker Tigran Torosian told reporters on Tuesday.
According to Torosian, discussions in parliament over the draft legislation have already been held with the participation of experts from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights as well as the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.
he said, the draft law, if approved, will bring Armenia’s legislation on public gathering up to par with European standards. Torosian said that parliament will know by May 15 whether the draft law has been approved by the two human rights and democracy watchdogs.
Commenting on the recent PACE resolution on Armenia’s democratic institutions, Torosian said that the document does not adequately present what happened in Armenia on March 1. The PACE suggestions, he explained, must be taken into consideration but the existing flaws within the resolution must be addressed.
The PACE resolution, which was adopted on April 17, was critical of Armenia’s post-election situation and stressed that an independent inquiry into the March 1 unrest as well as the release of political prisoners were necessary conditions for a dialogue between the Armenian government and the opposition. It also said that far-reaching political reforms need to be implemented in the country. The resolution warned that failure to take the necessary changes would mean that "the credibility of Armenia as a member of the Council of Europe is put into doubt."
Aram Safarian, a senior parliamentarian from the governing Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), said last week that official Yerevan has the "political will" to comply with these deman’s before the PACE’s next session due in June.
"After the formation of the new government is over, the authorities will draw up a timetable regarding all issues on which the Council of Europe has made decisions and proposals," he told reporters. "In accordance with that timetable, steps will be taken to settle and stabilize the situation before June."
The Armenian Government has agreed to implement continued reforms in order to bring Armenia more in line PACE standards but Torosian Tuesday reminded reporters that the possibility for dialogue with former President Levon Ter-Petrosian is minimal as the call for dialogue with the opposition had been made long ago but was rejected by Ter-Petrosian.
"What dialogue can exist between those who do not accept the rule of law in Armenia, who do not accept the decisions of democratic institutions, including the decision of the Constitutional Court?" he said.
In regards to independent investigations into the post-election unrest in Yerevan, Torosian explained that the government is open to establishing a parliamentary commission to conduct the investigations but discussions with the 5 factions in parliament over the matter have not yet begun.
"If the Parliamentary factions are ready to set up such a commission, I think in that case it may be created and its work will be very important for the future of democracy in Armenia," he said.

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