PACE Commissioners Say Reforms Not Enough

STRASBOURG (Combined Sources)–Following positive statemen’s on Thursday that Armenia had made significant strides in implementing a series of reforms demanded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg-based Organization’s two Monitoring Commissioners in Armenia appeared to reverse course on Friday, as they judged as insufficient the Armenian Government’s progress toward fulfilling the PACE requiremen’s.

In a letter to the Assembly’s President, PACE commissioners Georges Colombier and John Prescott said the Armenian authorities had not made sufficient progress in meeting the Assembly’s deman’s, made in mid April.

After a two-day visit in Armenia with government and opposition representatives, Colombier told reporters Thursday that much positive work had been carried out toward the fulfillment of the resolution’s requiremen’s. He had also expressed his confidence in the ability of all the country’s political forces to work toward the complete implementation of the PACE resolution.

The Commission members final conclusions now warrant an urgent debate on Armenia at PACE’s plenary session on Monday, according to PACE Monitoring Commission Chair Serhiy Holovaty.

At its April 17 session, the Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution demanding the Armenian Government make a number of serious political and legal reforms to address the post-election political crisis that had emerged after violent street clashes between opposition and security forces in Yerevan prompted the declaration of a state of emergency.

The PACE had given Armenia until the beginning of its summer session on July 23 to meet the deman’s set in Resolution 1609. Failure to comply with the resolution, the PACE had warned, would prompt the body to consider stripping Armenia of its voting rights in the Assembly.

The resolution among other things, demanded an independent, transparent and credible inquiry into the deadly clashes on March 1, the urgent release of political prisoners, and the scraping of serious restrictions on freedom of assembly imposed following the riots.

In a letter sent to RFE/RL’s Prague offices on Friday, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian listed a series of positive changes the Government had initiated since the April 17 PACE resolution. In the letter he noted the June 11 Amendmen’s passed by Parliament to liberalize the Law on public assembly, and the broadening of rights for the parliamentary opposition, which he said, will guarantee it an inclusive role in the political system and decision-making processes. Sarkisian also noted the drafting of a comprehensive amendment package to the electoral code in line with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe recommendations, as well as significant legislative changes to the TV and radio law in Armenia.

Sarkisian also said that the Government has moved beyond the PACE recommendations, by embarking on major law enforcement reform. A parliamentary ad hoc committee that includes all factions of the National Assembly has also been established to investigate the circumstances of post-electoral violence, he explained, adding that the ad hoc committee will allow extra parliamentary groups, civil society institutions, and independent international experts to participate in its efforts.

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