Sarkisan Disbands March 1 Probe Body

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian disbanded on Monday a bipartisan body investigating last year’s post-election unrest in Yerevan after weeks of bitter wrangling between its pro-government and pro-opposition members.

A short statement by the presidential press service said Sarkisian annulled his October executive order on the establishment of the Fact-Finding Group of Experts tasked with shedding more light on the worst street violence in the Armenia’s history. It gave no reasons for the decision.

The move was announced less than a week after Sarkisian stated through a spokesman that he considers the six-month inquiry to have been a failure. “Time has shown that … members of the Fact-Finding Group have unfortunately failed to rid themselves of their political agendas and to act as truly independent experts,” the presidential press secretary, Samvel Farmanian, told RFE/RL last Wednesday.

The work of the group was effectively paralyzed in early May by mounting tensions among its five members. Two of them were chosen by Sarkisian and his governing coalition, while two others by the opposition Armenian National Congress and the Heritage party. Its fifth member and chairman, Vahe Stepanian, was picked by the state human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian, in accordance with the October directive signed by the Armenian president.

Stepanian resigned from the group late last month, saying that he has failed to reconcile his wrangling colleagues. The latter have traded more accusations in public since then. In particular, the group’s pro-opposition members, Andranik Kocharian and Seda Safarian, have accused the Armenian authorities of deliberately sabotaging the probe.

But Stepanian found the presidential order logical. “It can be said that the Fact-Finding Group was not a success,” he said. The two other group members could not be reached for comment.

The group’s formation last fall reflected a lack of domestic and international trust in the official criminal investigation as well as a separate parliamentary inquiry into the March 2008 clashes.

In its first and only report submitted to parliament in late April, the Fact-Finding Group disputed the official version of the death of Captain Hamlet Tadevosian, one of the two police servicemen killed in the violence. According to the law-enforcement authorities, Tadevosian was killed by an explosive device thrown by one of the protesters. The group’s report, signed only by Stepanian and the two pro-opposition members, effectively denied this assertion.

Stepanian confirmed that the group has also prepared other, unpublicized documents relating to the unrest. He expressed hope that they will be used by the special commission of the Armenian parliament conducting a similar probe.

The commission on Monday urged non-governmental organizations, political parties and the opposition the Congress in particular to submit “all kinds of facts and information regarding the events of March 1-2” that they might have by July 1. The commission said it would incorporate those facts into its final report due later this summer.


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