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Armenia: Council of Europe Reprieve

1 March 2008

Yesterday's meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) gave Armenia one last chance to avoid sanctions following last year's clashes between opposition supporters and security forces in the aftermath of a bitterly contested presidential election. The disorder claimed at least ten lives and dozens of opposition activists were rounded up during the state of emergency that followed.

Armenian bloggers naturally reacted to the news, but most were unhappy with the PACE decision. On Monday, for example, pro-opposition blogs such as tzitzernak2 already sensed that Yerevan would be granted a reprieve when the president announced an amnesty for 16 people charged during the post-election riot.

[…] Talk about really trying to pull one over. If the PACE folks buy the release of these 16 as a release of political prisoners and significant movement towards the principles set forth in their own documents, well then they've compromised not only their principles, but they've been duped, chumped, sucker-punched, bamboozled, hoodwinked, and hornswoggled.

And maybe they want it that way, which is just a whole new level of immorality.

Another pro-opposition blog, Nazarian, agreed.

There is no doubt that the Europeans are going to claim this as a gesture of goodwill by the Armenian regime. All they need is a light excuse to maintain their current approach. As long as Serj doesn't eat little babies for lunch, the Europeans are not going to bother with Armenia's problems. […]

When Armenia's reprieve was finally announced in return for amendments to two articles of the criminal code used to detain and prosecute opposition supporters and activists, tzitzernak2 accused PACE of hypocrisy.

Things aren't black and white. But the fact is that they inserted themselves into a situation where they claim objectivity and imply an ethical upper hand. Yet their own involvement has been completely subjective, and unethical. It led to the situation getting worse, not better. And at every turn, every opportunity, when they had “the means,” they did not have “the will.”

They fed the fire until it became a pyre.

And now these articles 225 and 300 are supposed to be a bucket of water on the pyre.

A more neutral response came from The Armenian Observer who nonetheless expressed concern with the fragile and often highly-flawed process of democratization in the country.

Armenia has been living under constant pressure since December 17, 2008 – after the adoption of a suggestion by the PACE Monitoring Committee to suspend the voting rights of the Armenian delegation over concerns that political prisoners exist in Armenia and that the provisions of PACE resolutions 1609 (08) and 1620 (08) have not been fully implemented.

[…]

I really hope, that there are no sanctions against Armenia, but that there is a very strict resolution with some type of control mechanism, to make sure the country doesn’t fall off the track of civil liberties. Otherwise, what do we need the CoE membership for?

Writing in response in the comments section of the post, the pro-government realarmenia instead accused the Council of Europe of interfering in the internal affairs of the country.

I don't like such kind interrogation in Armenia’s internal affairs.
It’s shameful for country claimed itself as an independent.

[…

When Armenia become member of the PACE the articles 225 and 300 were the same like now. How they(Europe) agreed on Armenia membership?

Really I don’t care will be Armenia’s vote suspended or not, because this double-standard Assembly has no moral value to judge on.

Unzipped disagreed.

There were endless statements over the past few weeks that voting at the PACE to deprive Armenian delegation of voting rights is a “humiliation” for our country. Well, we are now escaped that “humiliation” for at least 2 more months. PACE has just voted to come back to Armenia’s implementation of its obligations at its April session. But did we escape from real humiliation? I do not think so. PACE is not a right place to look at for “humiliation”.

I am not mentioning here broader issues like no free elections, state of human rights in general and so on.

Here are real humiliations which Armenia faces currently (my top 3):

1. Existence of political prisoners
2. Armenian parliament
3. Lack of independent TV station (with nation-wide coverage)

In the digital age, however, Office Zombie was at least impressed that she could watch the PACE sitting streamed online, especially in a local environment where the media is politically polarized and rarely objective.

The opportunities that IT opens up for us are great!!! Its great to be sitting in an office in Yerevan and directly watch the PACE hearing on Armenia. If only we also knew French… :) Anyway, no suspension of voting rights, yet another Resolution on Armenia, commitment to revisit articles 225 and 300 of RA Criminal Code. We'll lets just wait and see what happens next…

I'm also interested how our media will cover the issue as a whole, I'm nearly sure they'll just sort of miss out on all the criticism from the monitoring group's members and will mainly focus on positive attitude from Russia, Ukraine, Italy, etc :)

Interestingly, at time of writing, there appeared to be no posts made by bloggers in support of the PACE decision.

Photo: 1 March opposition rally, Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian, Licensed under Creative Commons

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