US Experts to Help Launch Fresh Probe of Armenian Unrest

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Three American experts who participated in an independent inquiry into the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States will arrive in Yerevan this week to help launch a similar probe of the post-election violence in Armenia, it was announced on Thursday.

The U.S. embassy in Yerevan said the former senior staff members of the so-called 9/11 Commission will be in Armenia from October 5-11 to advise an hoc commission of its parliament investigating the deadly March 1 clashes between opposition protesters and security forces. It said they will also share their knowledge and experience with Armenian officials involved in setting up a smaller body that is supposed to conduct a more independent and in-depth inquiry.

“The visiting U.S. 9/11 Commission experts will not directly assist in any inquiry or investigation concerning events in Armenia,” the embassy said in a statement. “They will not conduct an assessment or report about the efforts underway in Armenia.”

“The sole purpose of this visit is to convey information and insights about the lessons learned from the U.S. experience with the 9/11 Commission,” added the statement.

The conduct of an independent inquiry of the March clashes, which left at least ten people dead, has been one of the main deman’s addressed to the Armenian authorities by the United States, the European Union and international human rights bodies. The demand reflects their lack of trust in the official criminal investigation into what the authorities in Yerevan call an opposition attempt to stage a coup d’etat.

The separate parliamentary inquiry, controlled by pro-government lawmakers and boycotted by Armenia’s main opposition groups, is also mistrusted by the international community. A senior official from the Council of Europe proposed last July the creation of another investigative body tasked with collecting key facts about the circumstances of the worst street violence in the country’s history. Its findings would be submitted to and assessed by the ad hoc parliament commission.

The Armenian authorities have accepted the proposal, with officials saying that the pro-government and opposition camps will be equally represented in the body.

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