Testimony or accusations?: Kocharyan answers give rise to new questions

Testimony or accusations?: Kocharyan answers give rise to new questions

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“Yerevan entered a state of emergency when tens of cars had been robbed or burnt…” Kocharyan said in his interview.

Former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan’s latest interview with the Mediamax news agency in which the ex-leader presented his version of the 2008 deadly post-election unrest has given rise to quite a few questions. The case related to those events and known as “March 1” has not been disclosed in the three years after the violence in which ten people were killed and, as current opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan puts it, this state of affairs “poisons the political atmosphere in the country.”

Among questions that many ask following Kocharyan’s interview is, first of all, why he has decided to make such statements only now.

Victor Dallakyan, an Armenian lawmaker not affiliated with any parliamentary faction, who as recently as a month ago stated from the parliament tribune that the March 1 events and the weakening of current president Serzh Sargsyan’s positions was most of all beneficial to Kocharyan, reiterated his position also after the ex-president’s interview. He also stressed that he had made statements about Kocharyan being the architect of the “March 1” events still in 2008. “Why has Kocharyan decided to make a reply now?” wonders Dallakyan.

Meanwhile, on Monday, a day before the Kocharyan interview was published, a report by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg was made public. The report gives some harsh assessments. In particular, the commissioner considers that the use of force on March 1-2, 2008 was excessive and that the investigation into the ten deaths has not been effective. “None of the perpetrators have been identified to date... The Armenian authorities should intensify their efforts to eliminate such grave cases of abuse in the military and to put an end to the impunity of perpetrators and responsible commanders,” the report said.

Hammarberg welcomed the recent instruction from President Sargsyan with regard to the investigation into the death cases and voiced hope that “this will be translated into concrete progress in identifying and punishing those responsible.”

Given that the Armenian opposition insists on prompt results of the “March 1” probe and Sargsyan has instructed law-enforcement agencies to give “a fresh impetus” to the investigation, should it be assumed that Kocharyan has, after all, been summoned to give testimony in the case? So far no representative of the country’s top leadership has testified to bodies conducting the “March 1” investigation.

Coordinator of the opposition Armenian National Congress Levon Zurabyan called Kocharyan’s latest interview as “a good ‘last word’ in the Hague court” and an attempt by Kocharyan to justify himself. “This is good in the sense that Kocharyan understands that the ‘March 1’ page has not been turned yet,” said Zurabyan, stressing that Kocharyan “must justify himself in court.”

In his remarks Kocharyan stressed that in dealing with the situation and deciding to introduce a state of emergency in Yerevan he did not act alone, but consulted with the speaker of parliament and the then Prime Minister and President-elect Serzh Sargsyan. Kocharyan also stressed that no one on that day gave out orders to shoot at people.

Galust Sahakyan, the head of the parliamentary faction of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), evaluated the statement by ex-president Kocharyan about the March 1, 2008 events as “quiet and lacking in ambition.”

Regarding Kocharyan’s assertion that during the March 1, 2008 events the situation on the streets in downtown Yerevan was controlled not by the president and relevant government departments, the senior RPA member said: “At that time no one expected that the opposition rally could turn into mass disturbances. The situation began to deteriorate and competent state authorities took the necessary steps to resolve the problem.”

Sahakyan also noted that if Kocharyan had something to say, then “he should do it straightforwardly and will get a similar straightforward answer.”