13:54:26 - 29/03/2010

Head of Vanadzor office of Helsinki Civil Assembly Artur Sakunts, in
an interview with, dwelt on the situation over the upcoming
conference of FIDH scheduled in April in Yerevan.

You refused signing the joint statement with the Institute for Civil
Society which created grounds for discussions in the press. New
developments followed it which, proceeding from responses, get
quite a serious character. Many lawyers refused participating in
the conference. Which is the reason why they refuse so easily to
participate in a conference on human rights which Armenia needs
so much?

It has been spoken about an international human rights conference
in Yerevan since last year, when FIDH (International Federation
of Human Rights) representatives arrived in Armenia. Naturally,
Armenian human rights organizations were supposed to be included in
the preparation works.

We learnt about the agenda of the conference accidentally from the
FIDH web site. It had been worked out without our participation. First
complaints aroused when we saw that the conference was to be started
with Serge Sargsyan's welcoming speech. His participation in a
conference entitled "fair investigation" was incomprehensible for us.

Speeches of the head of the Armenian Court of Appeals, Minister of
Justice, and the Ombudsman were also planned. The Armenian prosecutor
general was also invited. But no representative of a human rights
organization was going to hold a speech.

A person who is responsible for terrible violence of human rights,
who came to power through killings and election rigging was going to
open the conference in case the suggestion of the wives of political
prisoners to show Tigran Paskevichyan's film "Choice" about political
prisoners was refused.

The agenda was said not to be changeable. Serge Sargsyan's opening
speech was replaced by the speech of the CC head Gagik Harutyunyan,
which is also unacceptable. The Institute of Civil Society comes out
to hold speeches at its own conference.

My opinion is that the death of 10 and 200 injured people were not
a result of a clash.

FIDH dealt with this issue in its new statement.

Formulations are changed but the format is the same. We have to
record that as a result of our protest, the conference is changed
cosmetically but no proposal of our was included in the agenda.

Unfortunately, the impression is that you fight against a governmental
structure for the sake of human rights.

In your opinion, what determined the atmosphere of confidentiality?

Recall that after our protests, FIDH president issued a statement
which raised the issue of political prisoners and killings. It turns
out that we forced them to say what they, in fact, had to say.

It is a conference on Human Rights, which was closed to human rights
defenders. And the responsibility for this lies is put on the Institute
for Civil Society and FIDH. This international organization still has
a chance to save its face before April 6. Obviously, the president
of FIDH is in time trouble.

You assert that the conference will be held in an atmosphere formed
by the authorities? Then what is its sense?

Authorities try to prove that the situation is under control, and
it can be changed through concrete steps and actions that do not
correspond to reality. The conference will have a protocol, formal
nature. This is another event of the authorities.

Who will participate in the conference? The number of those who refuse
to participate is growing.

I do not know. They used to say that about 40 organizations should take
part, now they do not mention any number. Now they say the conference
will be open - one more change. How can anything be changed through
protests in a conference dedicated to human right?

There are opinions that the conference is held in support of Serge
Sargsyan in the context of the Armenian and Turkish relations,
considering the fact that it will be dedicated to the genocide issue.

It is very strange that the genocide issue is discussed during
a conference dedicated to investigation. The genocide issue is a
question of political significance and the initiator of this issue
is the father of football diplomacy Serge Sargsyan. After March 1, an
outrageous thing happened when as a result of political persecutions
a mass of political prisoners appeared, dealing with human rights was
connected with politics. We have a politicized human rights defense
sphere which was revealed within the frameworks of this conference.

Since it was stated about this conference on human rights during the
latest rally and broad masses learnt about it, do you think it is
possible to fail?

The fact that the opening ceremony was scheduled to be held in the
theater of Opera and Ballet and was changed as a result of our protest
shows the authorities avoided the resumption of protest actions at
the Liberty Square.