Armenia Set to Avoid PACE Sanctions

STRASBOURG (RFE/RL)–Armenia looked set to avoid sanctions by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Monday after pledging to enact legal amendmen’s that could result in the release of dozens of arrested opposition members.

The PACE is scheduled to debate on Tuesday its Monitoring Committee’s recent recommendation to suspend the voting rights of its Armenian members because of the Yerevan government’s failure to release all “political prisoners.”

The committee on Monday again discussed the matter and decided to urge the assembly not to penalize Yerevan for now, all but predetermining the outcome of the debate. David Harutiunian, head of the Armenian parliamentary delegation in Strasbourg, told reporters after the meeting that the panel will continue to closely monitor political developmen’s in Armenia.

According to Armen Rustamian, another member of the delegation, officials in Strasbourg feel that Armenia’s leadership now has the “political will” to fully comply with the two PACE resolutions that demanded the immediate release of opposition members arrested following the February 2008 presidential election. Both he and Harutiunian said the PACE will revisit the issue at its next session in April.

That Yerevan will avoid losing its PACE vote this time around was indicated by Lluis Maria de Puig, the 47-nation assembly’s president, earlier in the day. De Puig said the Armenian authorities assured the Monitoring Committee’s visiting representatives recently that they will amend two articles of the Armenian Criminal Code used against the most prominent of the opposition detainees.

The articles deal with provocation of “mass disturbances” and attempts to “usurp state authority by force.” Rustamian, who chairs the Armenian parliament’s Committee on Foreign Relations, said the planned revision of these clauses will enable Armenian prosecutors to “reconsider” their decisions against jailed supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian facing corresponding accusations. He said the Armenian parliament will pass the amendmen’s in time for the PACE’s April session.

Rustamian, the Chairman of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Supreme Council in Armenia, had warned in July the government’s failure to issue a general amnesty would lead to a possible political and social crisis in Armenia. The ARF, a member of the coalition government, has argued that the accusations leveled against the jailed oppositionists have “an inherent political subtext.” It has been pushing Sarkisian’s administration to issue a general amnesty for the jailed oppositionists.

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