2009-09-28 – Parliamentary Commission Releases Controversial Report On 2008 Election Violence

by on 2009/09/28  •  In Wikileaks

Viewing cable 09YEREVAN673, PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION RELEASES CONTROVERSIAL

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09YEREVAN673 2009-09-28 14:12 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
VZCZCXRO5920
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHYE #0673/01 2711412
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 281412Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9527
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 YEREVAN 000673 

SIPDIS 

DEPT FOR EUR/CARC, DRL 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/27/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KJUS KDEM AM
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION RELEASES CONTROVERSIAL 
REPORT ON 2008 ELECTION VIOLENCE 

REF: A. YEREVAN 398 
     B. 08 YEREVAN 865 

YEREVAN 00000673  001.2 OF 003 

------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 

1. (SBU) On September 16, after more than a 15-month-long 
inquiry that the political opposition boycotted, the Ad hoc 
Parliamentary Commission on the March 1, 2008 events released 
its long-awaited report into the violence that followed 
Armenia's disputed 2008 presidential election. The 138-page 
report largely justifies the security measures undertaken by 
authorities on March 1-2, 2008; places the bulk of the blame 
for the violence on the opposition; and issues only limited 
criticisms of law enforcement bodies' role in the violence. 
Relatives of some of the March 1-2 victims decried the 
report, and accused the authorities of covering up their 
complicity in the deaths of their loved ones.  The ombudsman 
gave a mixed reaction to the report. END SUMMARY. 

------------------------------------------ 
MARCH 1 COMMISSION FINALLY RELEASES REPORT 
------------------------------------------ 

2. (SBU) On September 16-17, the Ad hoc Parliamentary 
Commission tasked by parliament in June 2008 to investigate 
Armenia's postelection violence on March 1-2, 2008 submitted 
to parliament its long-awaited report -- all 138 pages of it. 
In investigating the violent events that claimed the lives of 
eight civilians and two police, the commission justified the 
authorities' decision on March 1, 2008 to put an end to ten 
days of around-the-clock demonstrations organized by the 
opposition to dispute the results of Armenia's flawed 
February 2008 presidential election and impose a state of 
emergency. (NOTE: Boycotted by the opposition, the Ad hoc 
Parliamentary Commission was made up of, and dominated by, 
pro-government lawmakers. END NOTE.) 

3. (SBU) In the first part of the report, which is dedicated 
to the pre-election period, the commission assigns the bulk 
of the blame for stoking the violence to opposition leader 
and presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian (LTP) -- 
allegedly for creating an environment of intolerance and 
hatred. In this regard, the commission faults LTP for 
ignoring the positive developments and accomplishments in the 
country and focusing exclusively on unsolved issues. The only 
other criticism in this section of the report is directed at 
Armenian television for biased and unbalanced coverage of 
political events that compounded the distrust of society 
toward the authorities.  (COMMENT:  Most of Armenia's media 
is either pro-government or subject to heavy influence by the 
executive branch.  END COMMENT.) 

------------------------- 
POLICE ACTIONS OK OVERALL 
------------------------- 

4. (SBU) The commission claims that overall police operated 
adequately and legitimately during the events, albeit with 
certain shortcomings. For instance, the report claims that 
the police inspection of weapons found at Freedom Square was 
improperly carried out, rendering the weapons useless as 
evidence and leaving numerous questions unanswered. The 
report also notes cases of violence and excessive use of 
force by the police against civilians during and after the 
dispersal of protesters from Freedom Square at dawn on March 
1. 

----------------------------- 
STATE OF EMERGENCY LEGITIMATE 
----------------------------- 

5. (SBU) The commission defended the imposition of the state 
of emergency by then-President Kocharian late on March 1, and 
claimed that it prevented further clashes. The commission 
acknowledges that it was unable to shed more light on the 
circumstances in which eight civilians and two policemen were 
killed on/as a result of the clashes on March 1, but urged 
law enforcement officials to do more to track down and 
prosecute the individuals responsible for those deaths. 

---------------------------------- 
DISSENTING OPINIONS ON THE REPORT? 
---------------------------------- 

6. (SBU) The two members of the parliamentary commission 
representing the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation 
- Dashnaktsutiun attached a special opinion to the report, 

YEREVAN 00000673  002.2 OF 003 

where they disagreed with the depiction of police actions as 
lawful and proportionate. In the opinion, the Dashnak members 
also criticized the violent dispersal of the opposition tent 
camp in Freedom Square on March 1, and demanded that law 
enforcement bodies conduct an "additional investigation" into 
the March 1 fatalities. In spite of airing these 
reservations, both Dashnak commission members signed the 
report. "Just because we don't like a particular provision of 
the report doesn't mean that we must reject the whole 
report," the Dashnak MP Artsvik Minasian told reporters 
afterwards. 

7. (SBU) The report was signed by all members of the 
commission except for the representative of the National 
Democratic Union party and Aram Karapetian, leader of the New 
Times party. Both MPs complained of receiving the report too 
late, and said that the report was compiled too hastily, 
leaving insufficient time for commission members to 
familiarize themselves with its content. The same complaint 
was seconded by the opposition Heritage faction in 
parliament, which claimed that the report was sent to 
parliamentary factions only half an hour before the session 
in which it was presented. Heritage subsequently dismissed 
the report as a whitewash. 

8. (SBU) The Armenian National Congress (ANC) led by LTP, 
also rejected the report as a cover-up. According to ANC 
spokesman Arman Musinian, "this report exposes the main 
purpose of the authorities and that commission: to cover up 
the monstrous crimes of March 1 and those individuals who 
shot dead ten citizens of Armenia." Musinian added that "the 
commission has brilliantly accomplished that task." 

9. (U) In a September 18 press conference, ombudsman Armen 
Harutiunian provided a mixed assessment of the commission's 
report.  Rather ambiguously, the ombudsman stated that he 
agreed with the questions the commission posed in the report, 
but found the answers vague.  Harutiunian said he was 
disappointed that the commission cited negative examples 
related only to the opposition's role in the unrest while it 
"completely spared the prosecutor's office." (COMMENT:  The 
ombudsman and prosecutor general are notorious opponents. 
END COMMENT.)  At the same time, the ombudsman credited the 
commission for some of the criticisms it leveled at the 
authorities and law enforcement bodies, and characterized the 
report as an overall step forward. 

----------------------------------------- 
COMMISSION PLAYING TO A WESTERN AUDIENCE? 
----------------------------------------- 

10. (C) In August, Nikoyan told an Embassy contact that he 
would include in his reports citations from various human 
rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, the OSCE's 
Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), 
and Armenia's ombudsman's institution. He confided at the 
time that he had received such advice from Davit Harutiunian, 
fellow Republican Party member and head of parliament's 
standing committee on state and legal affairs, who urged 
Nikoyan to emphasize in his report the need for improved 
legislation and training in order to strengthen Armenia's law 
enforcement bodies. Harutiunian allegedly told Nikoyan that 
"Europeans love such things, and will gobble it up," adding 
that general calls for reforms would appease foreigners and 
thus take the pressure off the commission to assign blame for 
the deaths. At first blush, it appears that Nikoyan and the 
commission faithfully heeded Harutiunian's advice, as the 
report is full of suggestions for police training and 
legislative amendments aimed at strengthening law enforcement 
capacities. 

------- 
COMMENT 
------- 

11. (C) For those in Armenian society who hoped the March 1 
commission's report would promote much-needed truth and 
conciliation after the disputed 2008 election and 
postelection violence, the report comes as a major 
disappointment -- but surely not a surprise. For those who 
wanted to know who was ultimately responsible for the ten 
deaths, the report also comes up -- again not surprisingly -- 
woefully short. In the imperfect March 1 commission, 
authorities had a unique opportunity to address the wounds 
from last year's election and violence. Instead, they served 
up a highly-flawed document that serves only to perpetuate 
the lingering distrust, cynicism, and general unease average 
citizens feel toward their public officials.  The fact that 
the country's largest opposition group boycotted the process 

YEREVAN 00000673  003.2 OF 003 

entirely is further evidence of Armenia's continued political 
polarization. 
YOVANOVITCH

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