Hammarberg ‘Welcomes Progress’, But Still ‘Concerned Over Detainees’

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg briefed the PACE monitoring committee, at its meeting in Paris on September 11, on developmen’s concerning the inquiry into the events of March 1, 2008.

According to the press release of the Council of Europe’s Information Office in Armenia, Hammarberg “welcomed progress on the first issue, but remains concerned about the question of detainees (virtually all of them opposition supporters or prominent opposition figures) and the criminal justice process in relation to the March 1 events.”

“The Commissioner’s proposal to set up a group of independent experts, to establish the facts of March 1, met with a positive response by the relevant actors in Armenia. Consultations on this issue are ongoing. The Commissioner believes that establishing the facts would be one contribution to healing the severe trauma experienced by Armenian people as a consequence of the 1 March events. It is therefore very important that the report of the expert group be made public,” the press release said.”

“Seven people remain in preliminary detention, trials concerning 14 detainees are in progress, and 39 people have been sentenced to prison terms. Some 41 people have been sentenced to non-custodial measures, i.e. probation or fines, mostly in the context of fast trial proceedings. Prosecution cases against 19 people were based solely on police testimony. The Commissioner observed that the letter by the Head of the Special Investigation Service issued in early March 2008 to some regional prosecutors, requesting them to collect information on participants in opposition rallies, rather than information on specific acts, raises questions about the intent and nature of the investigation. According to the Armenian authorities, all preliminary investigations have been completed,” the CoE Information Office said.

"The Monitoring Committee took note of the information provided by the Commissioner. The issues will be on the agenda of the next meeting of the PACE Monitoring Committee in Strasbourg, during the week of the PACE session (29 September to 3 October 2008)," said the press release.


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