ACCORDING TO THOMAS HAMMARBERG, INDEPENDENT AND TRANSPARENT INQUIRY SHOULD BE INITIATED TO CLARIFY WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN YEREVAN ON MARCH 1

Noyan Tapan
March 18, 2008

STRASBOURG, MARCH 18, NOYAN TAPAN."The State of Emergency should be
lifted in Armenia and an independent, impartial and transparent inquiry
initiated to clarify what actually happened during the confrontations
in Yerevan between the police and opposition demonstrators on 1 March",
said Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg
after a three-day visit to Armenia.

"The censorship which was introduced with the state of emergency has
contributed to rumours and anxiety among the population about what was
happening, at a time when measures to rebuild trust should have been
promoted. The fact that some pro-government media tended to demonise
the opposition while opposition papers were out of circulation did not
contribute to a constructive atmosphere", said Thomas Hammarberg. He
suggested that all limitations on the media and freedom of expression
now be lifted.

"Seven civilians and one policeman were killed and many others were
injured.

There is a need to clarify what actually happened and what provoked
the outbreak of violence. The two sides describe the events very
differently and it is important, also in a human rights perspective,
to establish the basic facts. This can only be done through a
comprehensive inquiry which is independent, impartial and transparent
and perceived as credible by the whole population."

"The establishment of an inquiry of this kind will not be easy in the
present polarised climate in Armenia. The international community has
expressed its willingness to offer participation or other assistance
to such a comprehensive investigation into the 1 March events in
order to contribute ... credibility".

"Demonstrators who committed violent acts should be held accountable,
as should policemen who used excessive force. However, the arrests
and prosecutions should not target people for having merely been
present at the demonstrations or expressed anti-government opinions,"
T. Hammarberg said.

According to Council of Europe Press Division, the Commissioner
welcomed the statement by the President that the current human rights
restrictions would be gradually reviewed and lifted.