Armenia Considers Compromise Format’ for Unrest Probe

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–An Armenian Revolutionary Federation lawmaker serving on the parliament’s ad hoc commission on the March 1-2 events has confirmed plans to set up a separate group of experts tasked with a simultaneous inquiry into Armenia’s deadly post-election violence.

Artashes Shahbazian from the ARF parliamentary faction told RFE/RL on Thursday that a draft resolution on a fact-finding group has already been put into circulation and sent to the Council of Europe for an opinion.

The need for such a mission was discussed by the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg, during his visit to Armenia in mid-July.

Armenia’s Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian confirmed to RFE/RL that he had been provided with the draft and that he positively assesses the provision in that according to which government and opposition representatives will be involved in this new format on a parity basis.

"from what I can gather, the fact-finding group will be formed with an equal representation of the government and the opposition.”

The Armenian authorities have been under pressure from the Council of Europe and other international institutions to allow a more objective inquiry since the March 1-2 suppression of opposition demonstrations that left at least ten people dead.

The National Assembly formed an ad hoc commission for that purpose in June. However, the country’s main opposition groups had turned down government offers to name representatives to the body, claiming that it is dominated by government loyalists and can therefore not be objective.

“I consider this to be a very serious display of political will and a very serious step,” the human rights defender stressed.

Harutiunian also made it clear that the group will involve only experts to be nominated by both sides. He also said that the Council of Europe will provide cooperation but did not even rule out direct involvement of its experts if need be.

The Ombudsman, who is also likely to be involved in the group or have his representative in it, says such a format can provide answers to many lingering questions regarding the post-election developmen’s that he doubts the current parliamentary probe will have the ability to handle.

“We can state that during the six months we still don’t know under what circumstances ten people were killed on March 1,” Harutiunian said. “I think the formation of the new fact-finding group may provide fresh impetus to the inquiry in this direction. Six months is a period long enough to be somewhere closer to providing an answer to the question as to who had given the order to shoot.”

Levon Zurabian, a top representative of the Armenian National Congress, told RFE/RL that no draft on the establishment of the fact-finding group had been presented to them yet and no official proposal in that regard had been made.

The plans to form the group anytime soon have also been confirmed by Samvel Nikoyan, a lawmaker from the governing Republican Party who currently leads the parliamentary probe.

“The decision on establishing such a group is possible any time beginning next Monday,” Nikoyan said.

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