Parliament Vice-Speaker Blasts U.S. For Fresh Criticism

Parliament Vice-Speaker Blasts U.S. For Fresh Criticism
By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Karine Kalantarian 20/05/2004 04:16

Radio Free Europe, Czech Rep
May 20 2004

Deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian slammed the United States on
Wednesday for its latest critical report on human rights practices
in Armenia, saying that Washington should address its own vote
“falsifications” before questioning the legitimacy of Armenian

Torosian, who is a leading member of Prime Minister Andranik
Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), also indicated that the U.S. has no
moral right to teach Armenia lessons of freedom and democracy after the
scandal over mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by the American military.

“It would be interesting to hear the State Department’s opinion about
George Bush’s [November 2000] election, about falsifications committed
and about reasons why the [U.S.] court hearings remained incomplete,”
Torosian told RFE/RL, reacting to the Armenian section of the State
Department on U.S. efforts to protect human rights around the world.

“It would also be interesting to know the State Department’s opinion
about the recent disgraceful actions in Iraq,” he added.

The report in question, released on Monday, reaffirms strong U.S.
criticism of last year’s disputed presidential election in Armenia.
“President Robert Kocharian was re-elected in a controversial vote
that was marred by numerous serious irregularities; as a result,
the election did not meet international standards,” it says.

The report also says that the Armenian authorities’ human rights
record remains “poor,” pointing in particular to continuing reports
of arbitrary arrests. Its findings were defended on Wednesday by U.S.
Ambassador John Ordway who argued that it is based on a Human Watch
Report on Armenia issued last February.

“I would say that it is a very objective review of the situation in
Armenia and reflects both the positive and the negative aspects that
I think most observers and most Armenians would agree are present in
this country,” Ordway told reporters.

Torosian played down the U.S. criticism. “The opinion of international
organizations’ opinion is always much more important than that of
certain state structures,” he said.

The Armenian government’s official reaction was more cautious. “We
take such reports seriously,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet
Gasparian told RFE/RL. “Having said that, we do not always agree with
all conclusions.”

“The problems mentioned [in the report] really exist,” the chairman
of the parliament committee on foreign affairs, Armen Rustamian,
said for his part. “The report should once again remind us that we
are not alone in the world and that we are being closely watched.”

Meanwhile, the Armenian opposition, which refuses to recognize
the outcome of the presidential ballot, welcomed the U.S. report
as vindicating its case for regime change. “The State Department,
which represents the official position of the United States, in
effect states that there is a serious problem with the reelection of
Armenia’s president and thereby casts doubt on Kocharian’s legitimacy,”
said Victor Dallakian, a senior member of the Artarutyun alliance.