Armenian president signs into law a measure on rallies

Associated Press Worldstream
May 5, 2004 Wednesday

Armenian president signs into law a measure on rallies

YEREVAN, Armenia

Armenian President Robert Kocharian signed into law on Wednesday on
measure on public gatherings that limits where they can be held but
that provides for penalizing officials if they block legitimate

The law came as Armenia undergoes a wave of opposition protests
calling for Kocharian’s resignation.

The law calls for rallies to be prohibited within 150 meters (about
500 feet) of places of strategic or state significance. That
designation could include the presidential palace, where police
forcefully broke up a large rally last month, injuring some
demonstrators and detaining more than 100.

However, the measure also calls for says national and local officials
can be subject to criminal or administrative punishment if they
illegally hinder the organization of mass demonstrations.

Justice Minister David Arutyunian said the final version of the draft
law took into account most of the changes recommended by the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Among the changes was elimination of a clause that would have
considered journalists and other non-participants in a rally legally
responsible in connection with a gathering’s actions.

Artur Bagdasarian, speaker of the Armenian parliament, said that
lawmakers couldn’t address all of the opposition’s complaints about
the new law, calling some of them unrealistic. However, he said they
could propose a parliamentary initiative to make changes or additions
to the law.