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Armenian Politicians Divided Over Council Of Europe Criticism

A tense Yerevan during the March 2008 postelection protests
A tense Yerevan during the March 2008 postelection protests
Senior pro-government Armenian lawmakers have offered differing assessments of the latest Council of Europe report criticizing an official probe into 2008 postelection violence, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

In the report, released on March 19, the council's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) expressed concern about the reported ill treatment of dozens of opposition members arrested following the February 2008 presidential election. It said the authorities must make clear to security bodies that illegal practices "will be dealt with severely in the form of criminal prosecution."

The report also called for a public inquiry into subsequent clashes in Yerevan between opposition supporters and security forces that left 10 people dead.

David Harutiunian, chairman of the parliamentary committee on legal affairs, told RFE/RL on March 22 that authorities should take the criticism seriously and come up with a "plan of immediate action" to address the concerns raised in the report.

Harutiunian, a former justice minister, said he agrees with the report's conclusions and thinks legislation will be passed to address the problems.

By contrast, Deputy Parliament Speaker Samvel Nikoyan rejected the CPT criticism as unfounded and politically motivated. He specifically faulted the Council of Europe for calling into question the credibility of the official criminal investigation into the violence.

"Because of [that] evaluation you can set aside that document," Nikoyan told RFE/RL. "They make a political evaluation of legal matters for some reason.... I wouldn't say they used such phrases out of friendly motives."

Nikoyan headed the ad hoc commission of the parliament tasked with investigating the March 2008 unrest. It concluded that the use of force by police and security forces was largely "legitimate and appropriate."