Armenian Opp. demands government’s resignation in regional rally

Armenian opposition demands government’s resignation in regional rally

10 Mar 04


Representatives of the opposition’s Justice bloc today staged a rally
in the town of Alaverdi, Lori Region.

It must be remembered that unlike the previous events arranged by the
opposition bloc in the regions of the republic, the turnout at today’s
rally was poor. In his speech, the head of the newly-formed
headquarters to save the fatherland under the Justice bloc, MP Viktor
Dallakyan, said that the illegitimate authorities were relying on
criminal local administration whose staunchest supporter is the
governor of Lori Region, Genrik Kochinyan. “Therefore, we warn all the
local underlings that they will soon end up behind bars, and we
promise this to them,” Dallakyan said.

The rally spoke about extremely low pensions and allowances, high
water prices and the political coalition’s promises to return
citizens’ savings accounts. The leader of the Union of Constitutional
Law and a member of the Justice bloc, MP Grant Khachatryan, said that
the coalition was not able to adopt any law of vital importance to the
people. All the problems facing Armenia will be resolved only after
the government is changed, and this process has already started, the
members of the Justice bloc think.

The resignation of the current administration is a requirement of the
day, the leader of the Justice bloc, Stepan Demirchyan, said.

The members of the Justice bloc promised to inform the public about
their next measures “to topple the authorities”.

Saakashvili warns Russian troops against interference in affairs

President warns Russian troops against interference in Georgian affairs

Imedi TV, Tbilisi
12 Mar 04

[Presenter] It was reported in Ajaria this morning that the centre was
planning to deploy the Commando Battalion in Batumi [Ajarian capital]
to establish control there.

The Ajarian interior minister [Jemal Gogitidze] said in a telephone
conversation with us that official Batumi had received this
information a long time ago. He said that Ajarian law enforcers had
been mobilized in this connection. Also, today Jemal Gogitidze denied
the information that a 60-strong group from the Netkachovi [as heard]
unit had abandoned [Ajarian leader] Aslan Abashidze.

Before flying to Yerevan, President [Mikheil] Saakashvili said once
again that the attention to Ajaria would not be lessened.

Saakashvili commented on today’s reports that the transfer of Russian
servicemen to Ajaria was continuing. It has been reported that 79 new
recruits were transferred to Batumi from the Armenian town of Gyumri
this morning. The servicemen were brought there by a special
train. The Russian side has been carrying out a rotation of its
servicemen at the military base in Ajaria for a month.

[Saakashvili, speaking to journalists at Tbilisi airport. Video starts
in mid-sentence] – they want to divert attention from Ajaria.

We will respond to the extremists in Tbilisi and we will detain those
who violate human rights in Batumi as well. Their hope that we will
give up Ajaria are in vain. This will not happen.

[Russian] bases is a separate issue. I constantly raise the issue of
bases at all levels. However, whatever forces they bring in, or take
out, let nobody have a hope that those forces will intervene in
Georgia’s domestic affairs. And may God forbid anyone to intervene [in
Georgia’s domestic affairs] without the Russian president’s
knowledge. They will receive such an answer that they will never be
able to stand on their feet again. We are no longer the Georgia of
1992. I do not advise [changes tack] – I am ready to stand in front of
any tank for Georgia.

Azeri official plays down Armenian leader’s Karabakh remarks

Azeri official plays down Armenian leader’s Karabakh remarks

Azad Azarbaycan TV, Baku
12 Mar 04

[Presenter] Baku believes that Armenian President Robert Kocharyan’s
statement that Nagornyy Karabakh can never become part of Azerbaijan
again is intended to cast a shadow on our country.

Saying this, the head of the Presidential Executive Staff, Ramiz
Mehdiyev, added that Kocharyan’s mythical remarks that if Nagornyy
Karabakh is returned to Azerbaijan, hundreds of thousands of axes
would be hanging over the Karabakh Armenians show that he is not
faring well in his country.

Mehdiyev also stressed that while the Armenian president is saying
that there is no political crisis in Armenia, his attempts to foment
tensions around the Nagornyy Karabakh issue testify to the opposite
and show that there is a deep political crisis in Armenia.

The head of the Presidential Executive Staff also pointed to the fact
that 30,000 Armenians still live in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan, he said,
is demonstrating to the whole world that the Armenians can live in
peace among the Azerbaijanis and there is no threat to their
lives. This is the result of the security guarantees that we have been
providing for the Armenians for years.

At the same time, Mehdiyev said that Armenia cannot conceal its
aggressive anti-Azerbaijani policy, as a result of which there are no
Azerbaijanis on Armenian territory. He added that the Azerbaijanis
were driven out of Armenia even more cruelly than with axes. Today
Armenian snipers are targeting peaceful Azerbaijanis. But they can
only do that in borderline areas.

Georgia, Armenian presidents pledge close cooperation

Georgia, Armenian presidents pledge close cooperation

AP Worldstream
Mar 12, 2004

Leaders of Caucasus neighbors Georgia and Armenia pledged close
cooperation Friday as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili met his
Armenian counterpart for the first time.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian said the two agreed at the talks
to meet often, both formally and informally.

Saaskashvili, who won elections in January to replace former President
Eduard Shevardnadze after leading protests to oust him from power,
praised Kocharian as an “ideal partner” for Georgia.

The Georgian leader said Armenia could also help Georgia to normalize
its relations with Russia, which have been complicated by the
continued presence of Russian troops and Moscow’s support of
separatist regions. On Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry harshly
warned Georgia against trying to rein in the independent-minded region
of Adzharia, whose leader has maintained close ties with Russia.

Kocharian expressed support for new railroad lines to be built from
Russia through the Georgia’s separatist Abkhazia region, which would
also link Armenia to Russia.

Georgian leader hopes Armenia to help normalize ties with Russia

Georgian leader hopes Armenia to help normalize ties with Russia

Mediamax news agency
12 Mar 04


The presidents of Armenia and Georgia, Robert Kocharyan and Mikheil
Saakashvili, focused on issues of improving Georgian-Russian relations
during their talks in Yerevan today, Georgian President Mikheil
Saakashvili told a briefing in Yerevan today, Mediamax news agency

He said that he was decisive to normalize his country’s relations with
Russia, which “had considerably worsened under the previous Georgian
president”, according to Saakashvili.

Saakashvili said that many countries which maintain good relations
with Russia could contribute to the process of normalizing
Georgian-Russian relations. In particular, Saakashvili said that he
discussed this issue with French President Jacques Chirac several days

“However, we believe that Armenia, which maintains special relations
with Russia, could play a special role in normalizing Georgian-Russian
ties,” Saakashvili said.

BAKU: Azeri, Armenian foreign ministers might meet in Slovakia

Baku Today, Azerbaijan
March 12 2004

Azeri, Armenian foreign ministers might meet in Slovakia

Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers are likely to meet in
Bratislava to confer Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over
Nagorno-Karabakh, Trend News Agency said.

12/03/2004 20:24
Baku Today

Azeri minister Vilayat Guliyev and Armenian minister Vardan Oskanyan
will be attending international conference for wider Europe on March
18-19 in Slovakia.

They will accompany their country presidents during the conference.

OSCE Minsk group’s cochairmen are also expected to attend the
conference according to the agency.

BAKU: Chess Tournament in NK to have no int’l status

Azer Tag, Azerbaijan State Info Agency
March 12 2004

[March 12, 2004, 18:28:38]

Chess tournament taking place in Nagorno-Karabakh will have no
international status, president of chess federation of Azerbaijan
Aynur Sofiyeva told a press conference at the Ministry of Youth,
Sports and Tourism. In response to her protest-letter FIDE president
Kirsan Ilumjinov assured that FIDE would make all necessary actions
towards the tournament.

Following Kirsan Ilumjinov’s official address to the Armenian Chess
Federation on cancellation of the tournament in Khankendi, Armenian
Chess Academy and separatist leadership of so-called `Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic’ took the initiative to arrange the tournament. Aynur
Sofiyeva said that the Chess Federation of Azerbaijan sent letters to
the Federations of those countries whose players participate in the
tournament. Chess Federation of Georgia let its Azerbaijani
counterparts know that Georgian chess player will not be included into
the national team.

To make things clear, a sitting of the FIDE Council attended by
Kirsan Ilumjinov will be held in Baku in late March.

Although Armenian chess federation isolates itself from the
tournament, it is known that it had sent a congratulation letter to
the tournament participants, Aynur Sofiyeva added in conclusion.

Saakashvili: Armenia can help Georgia repair relations with Russia

Pravda, Russia
March 12 2004

Mikhail Saakashvili: Armenia can help Georgia repair relations with Russia

Armenia is a nation which today enjoys the greatest recognition among
the countries of the region, said Georgian President Mikhail
Saakashvili in an interview Friday with the Armenian newspaper, Azg.
In his view, Armenia retains its attraction, ‘in addition to which,
she has a centuries-old history of friendship with the West and
Russia, and all that must be used in the interest of the entire

Mikhail Saakashvili likewise noted that he has hopes for the
‘economic and juridical union of Georgia and Armenia.’ ‘I want to
share our experience. For example, right now we are trying to
normalize relations with Russia. I think that in this respect Armenia
can be of help to us, insofar as she maintains close ties of
friendship with Russia,’ the Georgian president said.

In addition, he said that he hoped during his visit to Armenia to
learn and adopt a great deal from President Kocharian, ‘everything
that can be adopted.’

Zimbabwe to Charge ‘Mercenaries’ with Plotting

March 12 2004

Zimbabwe to Charge ‘Mercenaries’ with Plotting

By Cris Chinaka

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe said on Friday it will charge dozens of
mercenary suspects with trying to destabilize a sovereign state and
said the detainees were talking about their purported plot to stage a
coup in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

Zimbabwe detained more than 60 men after their Boeing 727 was seized
in Harare on Sunday, and Equatorial Guinea — sub-Saharan Africa’s
third largest oil producer — arrested another smaller group who said
were an advance party.

“The charges are quite clear… they include destabilizing an
independent and sovereign government and our statutes, and the AU
(African Union), forbid that,” Zimbabwean Home Affairs Minister Kembo
Mohadi told reporters after President Robert Mugabe met a visiting
delegation from Equatorial Guinea.

Asked whether the suspects were cooperating with the investigation,
Mohadi said: “They are talking.”

The plane’s operator says the group was due to provide legitimate
mine security in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Zimbabwe has said those it detained, mainly South Africans, Angolans
and Namibians, may face the death penalty.

Visiting Harare on Friday, Equatorial Guinea’s Justice Minister Ruben
Maye Nsue Mangue said the 20 men detained in his nation’s capital
Malabo were six Armenians, four Angolans with South African
passports, four Kazakhs, one German and five former “high-ranking”
South African military personnel.

“They have been sent by Western countries, companies. They have
received an advance of $5 million and they were promised another $5
million afterwards,” he said, adding the plot had been to abduct
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and take him to Equatorial
Guinea’s former ruler Spain.

Zimbabwe, battling international sanctions spearheaded by Britain and
the United States, accused spy agencies of those countries on
Wednesday of aiding the alleged plot against Obiang in conjunction
with the Spanish secret service.

“The United States Government has protested to the Government of
Zimbabwe concerning the outlandish and inaccurate allegations…
about U.S. involvement with a purported mercenary operation,” the
U.S. embassy in Harare said in a statement on Friday. Britain and
Spain have also issued denials.

No detainee has yet appeared in court, but authorities in Malabo
presented Nick du Toit — who defense sources say is a former member
of a South Africa’s special forces — to diplomats on Tuesday as the
leader of the advance party.
A lawyer hired by a South African firm to represent the Harare
detainees was due to meet them on Friday, but Mohadi said it was
unlikely they would appear in court then. Legal sources said they can
be held for two weeks before a court hearing.

Zimbabwe’s official Herald newspaper quoted acting Attorney General
Bharat Patel as saying the group’s leaders — among them men
identified as Briton Simon Mann and South African Simon Witherspoon
— could be charged separately from the rest.

Radio Zimbabwe said most of the men, a mixed group of blacks and
whites, had South African passports, some of them fake.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said officials
were considering bringing the South Africans in the group home to
face trial under laws banning mercenary activity.

“We are discussing that but we are not opposed to them facing trial
where they committed the crime,” Dlamini-Zuma told SABC radio on
Friday. South Africa’s mercenary laws aim to shake its image as a
supplier of “dogs of war” to African conflicts.

“The South African government is making the point that they are very
serious about rooting this out — it’s very much in line with the
African Union and its Peace and Security Council,” said Henri
Boschoff of Pretoria’s Institute of Security Studies.

“It’s about peace — if you have lots of mercenaries running around,
you’re not going to get it,” Boschoff told Reuters.

Rights advocates strive to promote judicial independence in Armenia

Eurasianet Organization
March 12 2004

Emil Danielyan: 3/12/04

Armenia’s judicial system is facing scrutiny from human rights
advocates, who assert that executive authorities continue to exert
undue influence over judges. Some non-governmental organization
activists are exploring ways to promote a greater degree of judicial
independence by making it more difficult for authorities to detain

The lack of the judicial system’s independence is rooted in Armenia’s
post-Soviet constitution, which states that the president is “the
guarantor of the independence of the judicial bodies.” Such language,
in effect, gives the president the ability to appoint and dismiss
virtually all judges at will. Conversely, the constitutional
provision effectively intimidates judges into making decisions
designed to please incumbent executive branch officials, rights
advocates say.

Research conducted in 2002 by the American Bar Association’s Central
and East European Law Initiative rated Armenia negatively on 18 out
of the 30 indicators that comprise its Judicial Reform Index (JRI)
for formerly Communist nations. Eight of the 12 remaining criteria in
Armenia’s JRI were rated as “neutral.” Among the negative categories
were “judicial qualification and preparation,” “selection and
appointment process,” “adequacy of judicial salaries” and “judicial
decisions and improper influence.”

In comparing Armenia’s performance with other CIS states, the JRI for
Ukraine gave a negative grade for 12 of the 30 reform criteria. A
newly published report on Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, gave negative
evaluations in 19 of the 30 categories.

“Bribery is a common problem, caused … by low judicial salaries,
mistrust of the judicial system and historical practice,” the Armenia
JRI stated. “Judges often get telephone calls from officials, parties
and `intermediaries’ in an attempt to influence their decision.”

“One lawyer stated that an appellate judge told him directly that he
could not resist the opposing pressure to decide [the case in
question] a certain way for fear of jeopardizing his professional
future,” the report added.

Opposition protests over alleged vote fraud during the presidential
election in 2003 underscored the judiciary’s apparent susceptibility
to executive pressure. [For additional information see the Eurasia
Insight archive]. A police crackdown on supporters of incumbent
President Robert Kocharian’s main challenger, Stepan Demirchian
resulted in up to 400 arrests. Many of the opposition detainees were
sentenced to up 15 days in prison on administrative charges for
participating in unsanctioned demonstrations. While in jail, most
opposition activists were denied access to lawyers and faced closed
trials in breach of Armenian law.

The post-election crackdown, which was denounced by the Council of
Europe and other international organizations, was carried out under
the auspices of Armenia’s Code for Administrative Offenses, a
Soviet-era relic that enables security agencies to briefly jail
people without probable cause. Human rights activists allege that the
administrative code has often been manipulated by authorities to keep
suspects in custody while cases against them are manufactured.
According to Avetik Ishkhanian of the Armenian Helsinki Committee,
courts, in such instances, merely act as “notaries,” effectively
recording the cases brought by police.

Human rights activists say one way to check executive influence over
the judiciary is to raise the standards by which prosecutors can
detain suspects prior to trial. Existing laws and regulations, along
with compliant judges, now make it easy to keep suspects in jail.
Official figures revealed, compiled by a local NGO, tell the story:
Armenian courts granted almost 97 percent of the 5,116 requests for
pre-trial detention filed by state prosecutors in 2003. In the vast
majority of these cases, rights activists contend, prosecutors did
not present evidence or make legal justifications in their detention

Ishkhanian, the Helsinki Committee activist, said that keeping
suspects in prison in Armenia is conducive to injustice and human
rights abuses. “It is always easier to extract confessions from
detainees than from those who are at large,” he told EurasiaNet in an
interview. “Law-enforcement bodies here continue to operate under old

The pre-trial detention issue is currently the subject of in-depth
study by a Yerevan-based NGO, the Civil Society Institute (CSI). The
organization is examining detention centers across the country,
interviewing judges, law-enforcement officials and lawyers. The study
began in September 2003. The group is already lobbying for the
passage of legal changes that would establish tougher requirements
for arrest and detention.

“There are practically no justifications in arrest petitions
submitted by investigators,” says CSI lawyer Narine Rshtuni. “Nor do
they seek to prove that a particular individual will escape trial or
obstruct the investigation.”

Hrach Sarkisian, chairman of the Armenian Union of Judges, defended
the judiciary’s independence, claiming that most magistrates do not
bow to pressure from prosecutors or executive officials. He blamed
existing problems on shortcomings in the law, specifically the
framework for pre-trial detentions that allows for detention without
the presentation of evidence of any misdeed. Contradicting
Sarkisian’s claims, one judge quoted by a preliminary CSI study says:
“The courts will do a better job if the judges get real independence.
If the judges were independent 30 or 40 percent of arrest petitions
would not be approved.”

CSI chairman, Artak Kirakosian, expressed hope that Kocharian’s
administration will be receptive to reforming the country’s Code for
Procedural Justice along the lines recommended by the NGO. Kirakosian
pointed out that Armenia’s Council of Europe membership obligations
required further efforts to reform the judiciary. Other activists,
including Ishkhanian, are more skeptical, believing that Kocharian
wants to retain his administration’s influence over the judiciary.
“This [promoting an independent judiciary], as well as free
elections, is something that Armenian authorities will never do,”
Ishkhanian said. “Any judicial reform will be cosmetic. I’m quite
pessimistic on this issue.”

Editor’s Note: Emil Danielyan is a Yerevan-based journalist and
political analyst.