YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia must immediately begin work on implementing legislative changes to its criminal code required by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) at its Winter Session late last month, a parliament deputy from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation said on Thursday.
Armen Rustamian, who chairs the parliamentary commission on foreign affairs, was speaking to reporters Thursday when he stressed the need to move quickly to amend two articles of the Criminal Code used against opposition members arrested following last year’s post-election unrest.
Armenia’should have something tangible to present to the monitoring committee at its next meeting, he said, referring to the criminal code amendmen’s the Yerevan authorities have undertaken.
“Time is short and we need to quickly implement the legislative changed and complete work by April,” he said. “We have a distinct and short period of time before the PACE Monitoring Committee meets again in Valencia, Spain on March 30-31.”
The Strasbourg-based assembly was expected to suspend the voting rights of its Armenian members during its January session after its monitoring committee submitted a month earlier a draft resolution urging PACE to sanction Yerevan for its failure to immediately release what it termed as “political prisoners” arrested on “artificial or politically motivated charges.”
But PACE backed down on its threats to impose sanctions against Armenia, citing Yerevan’s pledge to enact legal amendmen’s to Article 225 and Article 300 of the Criminal Code that could result in the release of dozens of imprisoned opposition members charged under them for the March 1 deadly clashes in Yerevan between opposition supporters and security forces. The clauses in question deal with provocation of “mass disturbances” and attempts to “usurp state authority by force.”
“It was declared at the winter session of PACE that the Armenian authorities demonstrate a political will and are willing to fulfill the commitmen’s before the Council of Europe,” reiterated Rustamian, who also serves as the chairman of the ARF’s Supreme Council in Armenia.
The resolution instructed the Monitoring Committee to continue to examine the Armenian authorities’ compliance with PACE deman’s and “propose any further action to be taken by the Assembly” at its next session due in late April.
According to Rustamian, the government working group formed to draft the amendmen’s convened its first sitting Thursday with two members of the group having already met with members of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.