STRASBOURG (RFE/RL)–The Monitoring Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Tuesday passed a draft resolution concerning the state of democratic institutions in Armenia urging Armenian authorities to make a number of steps towards changing the situation in the country.
Among the steps listed by the Strasbourg-based organization are launching an independent inquiry into the March 1-2 deadly post-election clashes between opposition protesters and security forces in Yerevan, releasing all prisoners who did not commit crimes, amending the law on public rallies, marches and demonstrations, engaging in a dialogue with the opposition, increasing the opposition’s role in political processes.
Chairman of the Armenian National Assembly’s standing committee on European integration Avet Adonts, who is a member of the Armenian delegation at the Assembly, said in an interview with RFE/RL that all major issues existing in Armenia are presented in the resolution. “There is a point that in June they will address the issue again to see what progress has been made within three months,” Adonts said.
Answering the question whether Armenia’s authorities are ready to release all people who consider themselves to be political prisoners, Adonts said: “We have not had political prisoners and must not have. It is ruled out that we have political prisoners. But I am more than convinced that if a person who is engaged in politics commits a crime he must not escape punishment.”
Adonts admitted that there is a sense of concern among Strasbourg officials over the possible presence of political prisoners in Armenia. “But we will do everything to prove [that there are no such] so as to dispel these concerns,” Adonts said. “There mustn’t and won’t be political prisoners in Armenia; If no crime was committed, they will be released.”
In Yerevan Tuesday, National Assembly Speaker Tigran Torosian met experts of the so-called Venice Commission Finola Flanagan and Simona Granata-Mengini as well as experts from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Dennis Petiti and Nil Jarman who are visiting to discuss changes to Armenia’s law on public gatherings and demonstrations.
Armenian Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian, Aide to the Armenian President Gevorg Mherian, Special Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General Bojana Urumova and other officials were also present at the meeting.
The parliamentary press service told Armenpress that Speaker Torosyan informed the delegation that the law was functioning well until one presidential candidate, who did not agree with results of the elections, conducted meeting for nine days without informing the relevant agencies or without applying for necessary permits. This, he explained, resulted in the tragic events of March 1.
Torosyan added that following nine days of illegal gatherings at Yerevan’s Liberty Square immediately following the Feb. 19 elections, unarmed law enforcement officials attempted search the premises for weapons and ammunition, about the presence of which they were informed by sources. Torosyan added that as a result of the demonstrators’ resistance clashes occurred and subsequently demonstrators began looting and setting municipal vehicles on fire.
Torosyan also explained that the National Assembly, in amending the law, had noted that its provisions would have to be sent to experts for discussion.
The two sides agreed that the Armenian Parliament would continue discussion on the amendmen’s and will send a memorandum to the Venice Commission.