A1 Plus | 17:19:26 | 29-04-2004 | Politics |

PACE FINAL REPORT ON ARMENIA

PACE has already adopted final report on situation in Armenia.

1. Since the end of March 2004, a series of protests were organised by
the opposition forces in Armenia, calling for the holding of a
"referendum of confidence" in President Kocharian. The possibility of
such a referendum was first mentioned by the Armenian Constitutional
Court following the presidential elections in February and March last
year. The Constitutional Court later clarified its proposal and the
authorities qualify the opposition demands and protests as an attempt
to seize power by force.

2. The demonstrations, while announced, have not been authorised by
the authorities who threatened their organisers with criminal
prosecution. Following the demonstrations on 5 April, the prosecutor
general opened criminal investigations in connection with the rally of
the opposition parties against several members of the opposition and
many more were arrested. On the same occasion, several journalists and
politicians were beaten up by unknown persons while the police were
standing by taking no action.

3. New demonstrations took place on 9, 10 and 12 April in Yerevan. In
the early morning of 13 April, the security forces violently dispersed
some 2000-3000 protesters who were attempting to march towards the
presidential palace, calling for President Kocharian's
resignation. The police reportedly used truncheons, water cannons and
tear gas, causing dozens of injuries. A number of protesters were
arrested, including members of parliament, some of whom are members of
the Assembly, and some were allegedly mistreated during their custody
by the police. The security forces also assaulted and arrested several
journalists who were covering the opposition rally.

4. The tensions in Armenia continue to run high; new protests are
planned for the week of 26 April. For the time being, there seems to
be little room for dialogue between the authorities and the
opposition, even if some offers have been made and some members of the
ruling majority - and notably the Speaker of the Armenian parliament -
have begun criticising the heavy-handed crackdown on demonstrators.

5. With regard to the conduct of the authorities, the Parliamentary
Assembly recalls that its actions are contrary to the letter and the
spirit of the recommendations formulated in its Resolution 1361 (2004)
adopted last January. It is particularly concerned with the fact that:

i. arrests, including on the basis of the Administrative Code, ignored
the demand to immediately end the practice of administrative detention
and change the Administrative Code used as a legal basis for this
practice;

ii. the authorities refused to authorise opposition rallies for
reasons not permitted under the European Convention on Human
Rights. Moreover the new draft law on the procedure of conducting
gatherings, meetings, rallies and demonstrations, currently in the
parliamentary procedure, was evaluated as excessively restrictive by
experts of the Venice Commission;

iii. persons detained during the recent events were reportedly
subjected to ill-treatment by police and security forces, in spite of
Assembly's demands to take resolute and more active steps to remedy
misconduct by law enforcement officials;

iv. freedom of expression continues to be seriously curtailed and
several acts of violence against journalists, which took place during
the recent events, were carried out or were allowed to happen by the
police and security forces.

6. With regard to the conduct of the opposition, the Assembly stresses
that they should do their utmost to avoid any future violence.

7. As to their demands for the holding of a "referendum of confidence"
and the resignation of President Kocharian, the Assembly stresses
that:

i. both the presidential, and the parliamentary elections which
followed in May last year were severely criticised by the
international community, including by the Assembly delegations. The
electoral process as a whole had not complied with international
standards and the irregularities observed notably included biased
media coverage, detention of opposition proxies and campaign staff,
falsification of results, intimidation of observers as well as
generally inadequate performance of the elections administration.

ii. although the fraud, in spite of its magnitude, did not decisively
change the outcome of the elections nor invalidate their final
results, in its report on the honouring of obligations and commitments
by Armenia, adopted in January 2004 (Resolution 1361), the Assembly
expressed profound disappointment at the conduct of the elections and
called for a thorough investigation into electoral fraud and an end to
the judicial impunity for those responsible for it.

8. While insisting that the Armenian authorities must fully comply
with its recommendations concerning last year's flawed elections, the
Assembly considers that the opposition, while entitled fully to enjoy
its constitutional right to peaceful assembly, should strive to
achieve its goals within the constitutional framework.

9. The Assembly calls upon the Armenian authorities to:

i. allow peaceful demonstrations and refrain from any further action
which would legally, or in practice, lead to unjustified restrictions
to the freedom of assembly guaranteed by the European Convention on
human rights;

ii. guarantee freedom of movement within Armenia;

iii. immediately investigate - in a transparent and credible manner -
the incidents and human rights abuses reported during the recent
events, including assaults of journalists and human rights activists,
and inform the Assembly of their findings and possible legal actions
against persons responsible;

iv. immediately release the persons detained for their participation
in the demonstrations and immediately end the practice of
administrative detention and amend the Administrative Code to this
effect;

v. take note of the fact that the immunities of PACE members are valid
during the whole year (PACE Resolution 1325 (2003) and Recommendation
1602 (2003)); accordingly it invites the competent Armenian
authorities to henceforth inform as soon as possible the President of
the PACE when Armenian members of that Assembly are prosecuted or
detained;

vi. create fair conditions for the normal functioning of the media,
notably as regards the issuing of broadcasting licences to television
companies, particularly to television channel A1+;

vii. send a written report to the Assembly, before the opening of the
June 2004 part-session, on the steps it has taken with regard to
sub-paragraphs 9.i to 9.vi.

10. The Assembly calls upon the authorities and the opposition to
refrain from any action which may lead to further violence and to
engage in a dialogue without preconditions, with a view to resolving
the present conflict in accordance with Council of Europe standards
and European democratic practice.

11. The Assembly believes that the recent events have added a measure
of urgency to its demands for Armenia's full and unconditional
compliance with their obligations and commitments. It resolves to
instruct the Monitoring Committee to send its rapporteurs to Armenia
to present a report on the situation, particularly on the follow-up of
the recommendations set out in sub-paragraphs 9.i to 9.vi, as soon as
appropriate, and well before the opening of the September 2004
part-session. If no progress with regard to sub-paragraphs 9.i to 9.vi
is made by the opening of the September 2004 part-session, it resolves
to reconsider the credentials of the Armenian delegation in accordance
with Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure.