The future of the five-person Fact-Finding Group of Experts established last fall to investigate the events that culminated in the clashes in Yerevan on March 1-2, 2008, between police and security forces and supporters of defeated presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian is in jeopardy following the resignation of its chairman, Vahe Stepanian.
On May 27, Armen Martirosian, a senior member of the opposition Zharangutiun party, told
journalists that his party will make public the group's findings to date if the group does not resume its probe. Those findings should remain confidential until the group definitively winds up its work.
The Fact-Finding Group of Experts was tasked by President Serzh Sarkisian with independently assessing the conclusions of the ad hoc parliament commission created last summer at the insistence of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly to investigate the postelection violence, which resulted in 10 deaths. Specifically, the group sought to determine who gave the orders to police to open fire on the protesters.
Zharangutiun and Ter-Petrossian's Armenian National Congress each nominated one member of the group; the two remaining members were selected by the coalition government. Human rights ombudsman Armen Harutiunian proposed Stepanian as its chairman.
The two pro-government members of the group suspended their participation in early May, shortly after its preliminary findings were leaked to the press, pleading the need for a short recreational break. Those findings contradicted
in key respects those of the ad hoc commission.
The group resumed its work on May 17, but suspended it two days later when Stepanian announced that he would step down as chairman because of tensions between the pro-government and opposition members. Harutiunian reportedly asked Stepanian to reconsider his decision to resign, but Stepanian told RFE/RL
that he will not do so, as "I just can't balance the two sides and ensure their cooperation any more."
-- Liz Fuller and Karine Kalantarian