A1 Plus | 13:53:34 | 28-04-2004 | Politics |
PACE PRELIMINARY REPORT ON ARMENIA
Here we represent PACE preliminary report on Armenia, which will be
discussed this evening.
Honouring of obligations and commitments by Armenia
Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States
of the Council of Europe
Rapporteurs: Mr René André, France, Group of the European People’s Party,
and Mr Jerzy Jaskiernia, Poland, Socialist Group
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 demonstrations, while announced,
have not been authorised by the authorities who threatened their organisers
with criminal prosecution. 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.
The Parliamentary Assembly considers that the actions of the Armenian
authorities are contrary to the letter and the spirit of the recommendations
formulated in its Resolution 1361 (2004) adopted last January and it demands
Armenia to urgently comply with its obligations and commitments.
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
I. Draft resolution
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 has since reversed its decision 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 against several members of the opposition and many
more were arrested. On the same occasion, several journalists were beaten up
by unknown persons while the police was 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. massive 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
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 elections fell short of the
international standards in key areas 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. Consequently, the Assembly considers that the opposition, while entitled
to fully enjoy their constitutional rights to peaceful assembly, should
refrain from attempts to use street demonstrations to reverse the results of
last year’s elections, which have been, in spite of the irregularities,
validated by relevant national and international bodies.
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. 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
iii. 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;
iv. 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+;
v. 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 , ii, iii and iv.
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
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 continue to closely
monitor the situation in Armenia and, if no progress with regard to
sub-paragraphs 9.i, ii, iii and iv is made by the opening of the June 2004
part-session, to reconsider the credentials of the Armenian delegation, in
accordance with Rule 9 of its Rules of Procedure.
II. Explanatory memorandum by the co-rapporteurs
Since the end of March, opposition forces in Armenia decided to jointly
organise mass protests to force 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, which were strongly criticised by the
international community. The opposition intentions are likely to have been
inspired by last year’s events in the neighbouring Georgia, where massive
protests led to the resignation of President Shevardnadze and early
presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Armenian authorities reacted to the opposition call for protests with a
campaign of political intimidation and administrative and judicial
harassment. Once the protests started, the reaction was even more ruthless.
Demonstrations were violently dispersed, journalists were beaten up, a large
number of opposition supporters were arrested and premises of the opposition
parties were raided by the police.
The Head of the OSCE presence in Yerevan blamed both the authorities and the
opposition for violent incidents. Most media and NGO reports put the blame
squarely on the government.
New opposition rallies were announced for the week of 26 April. The tensions
continue, there seems to be little room for dialogue right now.
2. Background to the recent events
The 2003 presidential and parliamentary elections
Armenia conducted two important elections last year – President Kocharian
was reelected president in March and the new parliament was elected in the
elections which took place in May.
Both elections were severely criticised by the international community,
including by the Assembly delegations. The elections fell short of
international standards in key areas, and the irregularities observed
included notably 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.
The Assembly’s monitoring report, adopted in January 2004 (Resolution 1361),
expressed profound disappointment with the conduct of the elections. The
Assembly also called for a thorough investigation into electoral fraud an
end to the judicial impunity for those responsible for it.
However, in their explanatory memorandum, the rapporteurs concurred with the
findings of the OSCE observation mission that the fraud, in spite of its
magnitude, did not decisively change the outcome of the elections nor
invalidate their final results.
It was in this spirit that the Assembly ratified the credentials of the
Armenian delegation after the May parliamentary elections. However, the
acceptance of the results should not be understood by Yerevan as the
readiness to condone and tolerate this kind of conduct in the future. They
were given the benefit of the doubt, but they should be very careful not to
gamble with the trust of the international community. The recent events
regrettably indicate that the authorities have not fully understood this
message. “Referendum of confidence”
After several presidential candidates from the opposition contested the
results of the Presidential elections in February and March last year, the
Armenian Constitutional Court ruled that their complaints were well-founded
but did not invalidate the results. Instead, it proposed the holding of a
“referendum of confidence” in President Kocharian.
This decision, delivered on 16 April, was severely criticised by President
Kocharian and his supporters, as a challenge to the President’s legitimacy.
The Constitutional Court has since reversed its position and stated, on 26
January 2004, that its original decision had been misunderstood and
manipulated. In spite of this decision of the Constitutional Court, the
holding of a “referendum of confidence” constitutes the main demand of the
present opposition campaign of protests.
3. Chronology of recent events
– 17 March 2004
President Kocharian dismissed Aram Tamazian, Prosecutor-General for the past
three years. Mr Kocharian stated that the role and prestige of the Office of
the Prosecutor-General had declined under Mr Tamazian’s leadership,
appointed in his place was Aghvan Hovsepian, Deputy Prosecutor-General. He
had served as Prosecutor-General in 1998 and 1999. Four Yerevan procesutors
were dismissed on 22 March.
– 23 March
The European Union’s special envoy for the southern Caucasus, Heike
Talvitie, met the Minister for Foreign Affairs and two Deputy Speakers of
Parliament. Ms Talvitie referred to the controversial draft legislation
currently before Parliament which would restrict freedom of assembly. Tigran
Torosian, a “parliamentary official”, gave an assurance that this bill was
in conformity with European principles and standards, and that it was
currently under examination by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.
– 26 March
In a joint communique to Parliament, the three political parties of the
governing coalition issued a warning about attempts to break constitutional
law, and called the responsible authorities to maintain order with
determination and firmness.
– 28 March
A major gathering organised by the Artarutiun opposition bloc in Giumri,
Armenia’s second city, degenerated into fighting between those who back
Artarutiun and supporters of President Kocharian. Four members of Artarutiun
were arrested for assaulting a police officer. The chairperson of
Artarutiun, Stepan Demirchian, had told participants (numbering around 1
000): “we are witnessing the death throes” of the Kocharian regime, and “the
Armenian people cannot tolerate the rule of such thugs”.
– 29 March
The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, which represents the most
influential business persons, issued a statement warning that political
unrest would have negative effects on the Armenian economy and that such a
situation would jeopardise the chances of finding a solution to the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on terms favourable to Armenia.
– 30 March
President Kocharian’s press service stated that the opposition’s threats
were baseless and aggressive, and that the organisation of unauthorised
public meetings was a “criminal offence”, and would be dealt with as such.
The chairperson of the Armenian Helsinki Association, Mikael Danielian, was
attacked and beaten up by four unknown men as he left his home. He had
constantly expressed criticism of the Armenian authorities for violations of
The prosecutor general opened a criminal case against members of the
opposition Justice Alliance under Article 301 (public calls for seizure of
power by force) and 318/2 (publicly insulting representatives of
– 31 March
The authorities warned the opposition leaders that they might well be
arrested during an investigation of their plans to “seize power by violence
and change the constitutional order of the Republic of Armenia”. The
Artarutiun opposition bloc and the National Unity Party planned to organise
demonstrations in April calling for the resignation of President Kocharian,
whose re-election in 2003 they challenged. The leader of Artarutiun, Stepan
Demirchian, emphasised that the opposition was not seeking violence, but
merely wished to restore constitutional order.
– 1 April
At a meeting with European ambassadors, President Kocharian said that the
situation was tense in Armenia. He declared that stability was his priority,
and he rejected accusations that his government had threatened to arrest
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation gave its support to the governing
coalition against the opposition, while the Republican Party and Orinats
Yerkir said that arrests among the opposition would be unjustified.
– 5 April
The National Unity Party organised a rally in Yerevan that drew an estimated
300 participants. Fights broke out and journalists trying to film the
clashes were beaten up while police was standing by taking no action. The
leaders of the two main opposition parties, Stepan Demirchian and Artashes
Geghamian, announced that they would be organising demonstrations from 9
April onwards in order to force the government to resign, despite a number
of arrests of opposition supporters made by the authorities on 4 April.
– 6 April
The police confirmed that 48 opposition activists and supporters had been
arrested following an unauthorised demonstration on 4 or 5 April. It was
reported that, during this demonstration, some journalists had been attacked
by unknown persons, without the police intervening. The police chief
declared that the law enforcement agencies had been told to intervene only
in extreme cases.
The leaders of the three main opposition parties, Artashes Geghamian, Aram
Sargsian and Stepan Demirchian, during new demonstrations in Yerevan on 9
and 10 April, decided to call for President Kocharian’s resignation, on the
grounds that his re-election had been fraudulent and therefore unlawful.
They issued an ultimatum to the authorities, giving them until midday on 12
April to organise a referendum of confidence in Mr Kocharian.
– 9, 10 and 12 April
The organisers estimate that 30,000 people (60 of whom were arrested) took
part in the 9 April demonstrations, with 10,000 taking part on 10 April and
15,000 on 12 April.
– 13 April
At 2 am on 13 April, special police equipped with truncheons, water cannons
and tear gas grenades attacked between 2,000 and 3,000 demonstrators who
were attempting to march towards the presidential palace to call for the
resignation of the President, causing dozens of injuries. Security forces
brutally attacked several journalists reporting on the opposition rally.
The police then moved on to the headquarters of the National Accord Party,
the People’s Party of Armenia and Hanrapetitiun, destroying their offices
and arresting some members of these parties, including three MPs. Artashes
Geghamian and Aram Sargsian called for new demonstrations. President
Kocharian met the three leaders of the governing coalition parties and
expressed condemnation of the previous days’ opposition demonstrations and
support for the police action. He added that the authorities would use all
lawful means of preventing any more extremist demonstrations
Vahan Hovannisian (a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation,
Dashnaktsutiun), Deputy Speaker of Parliament, said that the opposition had
overestimated its capacities and that its demands were of an extremist
nature. He pointed out that the three coalition parties had made an offer
the previous week to begin dialogue with the opposition.
At this time, Artashes Geghamian and Aram Sargsian were in hiding, fearing
Stepan Demirchian rejected police claims that the demonstrators had used
violence against the police.
A spokesman for the US State Department, Richard Boucher, expressed the
United States’ concern about the acts of violence in Armenia, and urged the
two sides to engage in dialogue.
– 14 April
Artashes Geghamian, at a press conference in the parliament building, said
that the police had searched the National Unity Party headquarters and his
own flat, seizing documents and even family photographs. He added, with the
support of two members of the Artarutiun alliance, Albert Bazeyan and Viktor
Dallakian, that the opposition would continue to campaign for the
resignation of the country’s leadership.
At a meeting with members of Armenia’s United Communist Party, President
Kocharian called for dialogue with the opposition. Tigran Torosian and
Samvel Balasanian, members of the governing coalition, also proposed
dialogue, during a meeting with Artashes Geghamian, who rejected the offer.
Tigran Torosian added that a referendum of confidence in the President would
be both unlawful and unconstitutional.
The President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Mr Schieder, and the Secretary
General of the Council of Europe, Mr Schwimmer, expressed serious concern
about the violent events in Armenia.
At a meeting with Natalia Voutova, Special Representative of the Secretary
General of the Council of Europe, the Prosecutor General, Mr Hovsepian, said
that the police had acted lawfully on 13 April.
The three parties of the governing coalition reiterated their offer of
dialogue, but the opposition leaders, Mr Demirchian, Mr Sargsian and Mr
Geghamian, rejected this proposal and voiced their intention of organising a
demonstration in Yerevan on 16 April.
1,000 people demonstrated in Yerevan against police brutality and the
arrests of 13 April. 115 people had been arrested on 13 April, including
three MPs who had subsequently been released. The police accused the former
Minister of Defence, Mr Harutiunian, who had been arrested on 13 April, of
disturbing public order and insulting officials.
– 16 April
A demonstration organised by the Artarutiun alliance and the National Accord
Party was attended by 6,000 people. Mr Demirchian told the demonstrators
that the police brutality of 13 April was a crime that could be neither
forgiven nor forgotten. Mr Sargsian added that the opposition would continue
to organise demonstrations until President Kocharian resigned.
– 19 April
In an interview with Russian daily Izvestia, Mr Kocharian described the
repeated opposition demonstrations as based on a “misunderstanding” and as a
“temporary phenomenon”, and said that Georgia’s “Revolution of Roses” could
not be reproduced in Armenia, whatever the opposition thought. He added: “I
do not understand the purpose of these demonstrations, when the opposition
is represented in Parliament and can work and prove to society its
effectiveness and its capacity to solve problems better than the President”.
– 20 April
Speaking to journalists, Mr Kocharian denied rumours that he was planning to
divert the attention of the opposition which was campaigning for his
resignation by dismissing his Prime Minister or dissolving Parliament and
calling new elections. The Prime Minister, Andranik Markarian, said that,
were he to be dismissed, he would join the opposition.
The United States Ambassador in Yerevan had separate meetings with Mr
Demirchian and Mr Geghamian. No information about these discussions is
– 21 April
An estimated 20,000 people demonstrated to call for the resignation of
President Kocharian. Mr Sargsian called on the demonstrators to meet again
on 27 April for what he called a “decisive” demonstration. Mr Dallakian
summarised the opposition’s conditions for accepting the governing
coalition’s offer of dialogue: the release of all political prisoners, the
end of government “repression” against the opposition and the resignation of
the Minister of Defence and the Prosecutor-General.
– 22 April
The Venice Commission experts concluded that the draft law on the freedom of
assembly was not in conformity with European principles and standards.
4. Resolution 1361 (2004) on the honouring of obligations and commitments by
In January 2004 the Assembly adopted its its second monitoring report since
the accession of Armenia to the Council of Europe in January 2001.
Resolution 1361, adopted on this occasion, takes note of some encouraging
developments that took place in the last two years – notably the
ratification of Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights which
formally abolished the death penalty However, the Resolution – as already
mentioned – sharply criticised the two elections carried out in 2003.
Moreover, it listed a number of serious concerns with regard to the
democratic and human rights conduct of the Armenian authorities and
expressed its expectations that these issues will be speedily dealt with in
accordance with Council of Europe standards and principles.
Regrettably, the reaction of the Armenian authorities in the events of March
and April this year demonstrate that the Assembly’s request for further
progress was ignored and that, with regard to some of the Assembly’s key
concerns, the situation has even worsened.
Administrative detention With regard to the scandalous and continued use of
administrative detention, Resolution 1361 urged the authorities to amend the
Administrative Code to put an end to this practice which is incompatible
with the organisation’s standards. The Assembly also asked the authorities
to submit this new draft to Council of Europe expertise by April 2004.
Instead of immediately ending this practice and preparing the necessary
legislative drafts to this effect, the Armenian authorities resorted to a
wide use of administrative detentions during the recent events. While it is
difficult to verify the exact number of persons who were arrested and the
legal basis used for their detention, most reports indicate that their
number was between two and three hundred.
The Assembly repeats its demand for an immediate end to the practice of
administrative detention. The Administrative Code must be revised without
any further delay.
Freedom of assembly
Resolution 1361 asked the Armernian authorities to immediately begin
examining the question of balance between the freedom of assembly and
respect for public order, and to adopt a law on demonstrations and public
meetings in full compliance with Council of Europe standards.
Regrettably, during the March and April events the authorities have
displayed a diametrically opposite attitude. Most of opposition demands for
authorisation of their meetings were turned down, reportedly for reasons
that cannot be deemed as justified in accordance with Council of Europe
standards and practice. According to Human Rights Watch, the opposition
demands were turned down because of the “detriment to the city’s economic
well being” or “blocking traffic”.
Moreover, a draft law on rallies and demonstrations, which is currently in
the Parliamentary procedure, was evaluated by the Venice Commission which
found that the restrictions to the freedom of assembly envisaged by the
draft law were too broad and limitative, giving the state authorities the
right to restrict freedom of assembly for reasons which are not permitted by
the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Assembly insists that the comments of the Venice Commission are fully
taken into account in the last reading of the law in the Armenian
parliament, and that the freedom of assembly is no longer restricted in the
manner which we have seen during the recent events.
The opposition, for its part, shares the responsibility to prevent violence
during their rallies.
Conditions of detention
In January, the Assembly asked Armenia to make further efforts to improve
conditions of detention, on the basis of recommendations formulated by the
Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).
Regrettably, according to Human Rights Watch, several persons arrested
during the recent events were subjected to abuse during their detention by
the police. These allegations must be investigated, in a speedy, transparent
and credible manner, and if their veracity is confirmed, persons responsible
should be punished in accordance with the law. The Armenian authorities
should inform the Assembly, in the shortest delays, on the steps it has
taken to comply with this request. Freedom of expression and media
This is a long standing concern, also repeated in January. The situation has
hardly improved. The authorities continue to refuse to give the broadcasting
licence to the television channel A1+. Moreover, during the recent events
several journalists were severely beaten by unknown persons while police
were standing by, while others were assaulted and arrested by the security
forces themselves. Intimidation of the press through such a conduct will not
be tolerated. The lack of media freedom which made it very difficult to
obtain accurate information on the recent events was also mentioned in the
reaction of the Council of Europe’s Secretary General.
The recent events in Armenia resulted in a worsening of the situation with
regard to key concerns expressed by the Assembly in its January report, and
notably with regard to the continuation of administrative detention and
conditions of detention, human rights violations by members of police and
security forces, freedom of assembly, and freedom of media. This situation
cannot be allowed to continue. The rapporteurs expect an immediate and
significant change in the conduct and legislative practice concerning the
respect of Armenia’s obligations and commitments. Failure to do so before
the Assembly’s June session could lead to sanctions.
The opposition should enjoy full freedom to conduct their political
activities, which include the right to peaceful demonstrations. The
authorities should immediately abstain from any interference and
administrative and judicial harassment in this regard.
The fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly must be respected and
any restrictions must be in line with the European Convention on Human
This being said, the opposition shares the responsibility for ensuring that
protests are not marred by violence. The parliament should be the main forum
for political arguments. They should not try to circumvent the political
institutions in the country with a hope to reverse the results of last year’
s elections which were, in spite of criticism, validated both at the
domestic level and by the international community.
The Assembly should not be drawn into accepting artificial analogies between
the situations in Georgia and in Armenia.
The Assembly should focus its efforts on ensuring full compliance with
Armenia’s commitments and obligations. Its January Resolution contains all
the necessary steps to bring about a qualitative change in the democratic
and human rights situation in the country.
The Armenian authorities must speedily implement the remaining commitments.
This would not only reduce the present political tensions (through a full
respect of democratic procedures, human rights and fundamental freedoms) but
also ensure that future elections in the country are carried out in full
compliance with international standards, and thus bring an end to the
endemic political instability in Armenia.
Both the authorities and the opposition should abstain from violence and do
their utmost to prevent further incidents. They should engage in a
meaningful political dialogue aimed at resolving the tensions and the
Assembly is ready to offer its good offices to this effect.
Reporting committee: Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and
Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)
Reference to Committee:
Reference No. 2944 of 26 April 2004
Draft resolution unanimously adopted by the Committee on 27 April 2004
Members of the committee:
Mrs Durrieu (Chairperson),
Mrs Aguiar, Mr Akçam,
Mr B. Aliyev,
Mr van den Brande,
Mr M. Cavusoglu,
Mr Debono Grech,
Mr van der Linden,
Mr Martínez Casañ,
Mr Medeiros Ferreira,
Mr Yáñez Barnuevo,