Opposition Sets Conditions for Joining New Unrest Probe

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s two main opposition forces listed on Saturday several conditions for their participation in a new, supposedly independent inquiry into the deadly post-election clashes in Yerevan.

The Armenian National Congress and the Heritage party said the Armenian authorities must at least invite international experts to a fact-finding body which is due to conduct the inquiry.

President Serzh Sarkisian formed the Fact-Finding Group of Experts on October 23 after months of pressure from the Council of Europe and other international bodies distrusting the ongoing criminal investigation into the March 1 clashes. In an executive order, he offered the two groups the opportunity to appoint two of the five members of the group. The three other seats in the body were reserved for Sarkisian’s four-party governing coalition and the state human rights defender.

In a joint statement, the Armenian National Congress and Heritage described the presidential order as unconstitutional, saying that Armenian law does not empower Sarkisian to set up such bodies. They said the new inquiry can not be “independent, credible and transparent” because the group will not have the authority to force government officials to give testimony and will be subordinated to a government-controlled parliamentary commission also investigating the unrest. They also objected to the fact that the investigative group will meet only behind the closed doors and its members will not be allowed to make public statemen’s until the inquiry is over.

The opposition gave the authorities one month to address their concerns. It singled out foreign experts’ inclusion in the body as the key opposition demand.

The statement at the same named individuals that would represent the opposition in the probe. The Armenian National Congress’ nominee is Andranik Kocharian, an opposition figure who had served as deputy minister of defense and interior and held other senior government positions in the 1990s in the administration of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.

Heritage would be represented in the group by Seda Safarian, a well-known trial attorney who has defended some of more than 100 opposition members and supporters arrested following the March 1 violence. Safarian’s brother Stepan is a leading member of the party.

The ruling coalition has yet to choose its two representatives to the group.

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