Strasbourg, 02.10.2008 - The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has received the report from the Human Rights Commissioner regarding his visit to Yerevan from 13 to 15 July 2008 and is extremely alarmed about its findings and conclusions that show that only limited progress has been achieved regarding key demands of the Assembly. The committee therefore invited the Human Rights Commissioner to return to Yerevan and report back to the committee at its meeting in Paris on 17 December 2008.
While noting the positive steps made regarding establishment of an independent and credible inquiry, the Monitoring Committee remains extremely concerned regarding persons deprived of their liberty in relation to the events on 1 and 2 March 2008.
In Resolution 1620 (2008), the Assembly made it clear that “the cases still under investigation should be closed or promptly brought before the courts”; “a verdict based solely on police testimony without corroborating evidence cannot be acceptable” and that “the cases under Articles 300 and 225 of the Criminal Code should be dropped unless there is strong evidence that the accused have personally committed acts of violence or ordered, abetted or assisted to commit them”.
In that respect, the committee took note that, while the investigations regarding persons in preventive detention have now closed, the cases against seven, all charged under articles 300 and 225, have not yet been brought before the courts as a result of the excessive length of the investigation. In addition, the committee is deeply concerned that the investigations regarding the responsibility for the ten deaths on 1 and 2 March have not yet been, or are not yet on the point of being, concluded.
Serious questions remain regarding the nature of the charges brought against people arrested in relation to the events on 1 and 2 March, as well as regarding the court proceedings of several cases, including with regard to the principle of a fair trial. In addition, and contrary to Assembly demands, 19 persons have been convicted on the basis of police testimony only. The committee is therefore seriously concerned that people may have been detained, and even convicted, based on political beliefs and non-violent activities, which is unacceptable to the Assembly.
The committee regrets that the Armenian authorities did not consider the possibility of amnesty, pardons, or any other legal means available to them, to resolve the situation regarding persons deprived of their liberty in relation to the events on 1 and 2 March 2008. It strongly urges the authorities to consider such options, which would result in major progress towards meeting the requirements of the Assembly.
The committee noted the positive steps regarding the establishment of an independent and credible inquiry as outlined in the report by the Commissioner. The committee expresses its full support for the proposals made by the Commissioner. It welcomes the constructive dialogue between the Armenian authorities and Commissioner on this issue and hopes that the remaining outstanding issues will be resolved soon in order for the expert group to start and finalise its work as soon as possible.
The committee is of the view that Armenia is on a threshold regarding the implementation of Resolutions 1609 (2008) and 1620 (2008). Now is the time for the Armenian authorities to show the political will to resolve this problem. The committee places its full trust in, and gives its full support for the work of the Human Rights Commissioner in this respect. Therefore, it would invite the Commissioner to make a follow-up visit to Yerevan and to report back to the committee at its meeting on 17 December 2008 on the progress made regarding the independent and credible inquiry and release of persons deprived of their liberty in relation to the events on 1 and 2 March. In December, on the basis of that report, the committee will make its decision on the actions, and possible sanctions, it will recommend to the plenary of the Assembly in January 2009.
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