Armenia’s Parliament Discusses Amendments To Law "On Holdings Rallie


March 18 2008

Armenia’s parliament at an extraordinary session has started discussing
a bill amending the law "On holding meetings, rallies, marches, and
demonstrations." According to parliament speaker Tigran Torosyan, the
bill has been introduced by four parliamentary factions. Speaking as a
lead speaker, member of the ruling Republican Party Rafik Petrosyan
stated that the amendments are necessary in order to "learn the
lessons of the past." In his words, the recent events have shown that
"life is much richer than the legislation field."

The amendments, in particular, provide that a responsible body,
the mayor’s office, in particular, can decline a request to hold a
rally if it has reliable information on the public action’s aiming
to overthrow a constitutional order, inciting racial, national,
or religious hatred, propagating violence and war, or endangering
national security, public order, morality and health of the people, and
infringing on constitutional rights and freedoms of other individuals.

Another amendment provides that official findings of the police
and National Security Service can be sources of such reliable
information. The same agencies are supposed to have a right to decide
on annulment of such grounds. The amendments also provide that, in
cases when mass public actions transform into mass riots, leading to
deaths of people, a responsible agency can temporarily ban holding
mass public events, until all circumstances and persons involved in
the crimes are established.

The amendments also stipulate that a responsible agency examine a
request for holding a public event for 72 hours. Requests are to be
submitted 5 days prior to the date of holding a public event.

ARF Dashnaktsutiun faction member Vahan Hovannisyan has suggested that
part 2 (temporary ban to hold public events) is amended so that it
is applied not to everybody but to those who have already committed
crimes. The lead speaker argued that "this is done to ensure that
everyone has equal rights before the law."

Member of opposition Heritage faction Zaruyi Postanjan remarked that,
if police agencies and NSS do actually possess information on events’
aiming at overthrowing a constitutional order, they should not give
an official conclusion, based on which a responsible agency will
ban a public action, but initiate criminal proceedings, since these
actions fall under criminally prosecuted activity.

If passed, the bill will be enacted five days after its official