PACE Official Accused Of Taking Armenian ‘Bribe’

PACE Official Accused Of Taking Armenian ‘Bribe’
By Hrach Melkumian 08/06/2004 00:28

Radio Free Europe, Czech Rep.
June 7 2004

A senior official from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly
(PACE) monitoring the fulfillment of Armenia’s membership commitments
was accused by the Armenian opposition on Monday of being effectively
bribed by the authorities during a visit to Yerevan last week.

Poland’s Jerzy Jaskiernia, one of the two Armenia rapporteurs of the
PACE’s Monitoring Committee, arrived for a high-profile presentation of
the Armenian version of his book dedicated to the 45-nation assembly.

Its translation and publication was funded by the leadership of
the Armenian parliament, with speaker Artur Baghdasarian personally
attending the presentation.

The book had previously appeared only in the Polish and English
languages. Speaking to journalists at the event, both Baghdasarian
and Jaskiernia denied any political motives behind the publication.
The latter argued in particular that the book’s subject is irrelevant
to Armenian politics.

However, opposition leaders claim that Baghdasarian’s gesture was
aimed at influencing the content of a crucial report which Jaskiernia
and the other rapporteur, Rene Andre of France, will submit to the
PACE ahead of its summer session later this month. The two men are
to inform the Strasbourg lawmakers whether the Armenian authorities
have implemented the recommendations of their recent resolution on
the political crisis in Armenia.

“I regard it as a bribe. I think that there are corrupt people in
the Council of Europe and any other international structure,” Aram
Sarkisian of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance charged.

“That person was given a present in the expectation of drawing up
a corresponding document. They could have done it in the autumn,
after the drafting of the document,” Sarkisian added.

The PACE resolution denounced the Armenian government’s heavy-handed
response to the opposition campaign for President Robert Kocharian’s
resignation, saying that it is “contrary to the letter and the
spirit” of its earlier recommendations to Yerevan. It warned that the
authorities must release all opposition detainees, scrap “unjustified
restrictions” on anti-Kocharian demonstrations, investigate their
“human rights abuses” or face the possibility of sanctions next

The opposition insists that the authorities have failed to comply with
the resolution by continuing to arrest and imprison its activists
and supporters. Armenian officials, for their part, have disagreed
with the PACE criticism and say they are determined to prove the
opposite. Jaskiernia and Andre are due in Yerevan on Friday on a
fact-finding mission which will likely determine the content of
their report.

The Polish lawmaker personally presented the draft resolution during
a debate in Strasbourg on April 28. The initial version of the
document contained language discouraging the Armenian opposition from
challenging President Robert Kocharian’s disputed 2003 reelection
with street protests. But that was dropped after strong objections
voiced by some PACE members.

Nonetheless, Jaskiernia and the Monitoring Committee pushed through
the assembly a passage saying that serious irregularities “did not
decisively change the outcome of the elections nor invalidate their
final results.” They also blocked opposition attempts to secure a
PACE endorsement of a “referendum of confidence” in Kocharian.