Monday, 30 June 2008
They brought about a less rigid society, where authority can be challenged and personal freedom cherished."
*source of the quote and picture - BBC
Sunday, 29 June 2008
To be honest, I am not convinced with their debut performance. It did not really touch me much. Personally, I prefer Serj Tankian’s solo songs. They have more meaning and closer to me, and I associate them more with the SOAD (may be that’s the problem!) but, hey, Scars just started their way, although I do not think this will be “scarring Europe”, as they put it on their blog.
Saturday, 28 June 2008
He reiterated his previous claims that he does not aim for a power but rather intended to stay in a position of president for 2-3 years to clean up the system, and then pass the power to the younger and more energetic generation of politicians - Stepan Demirchyan (head of opposition party), Aram Sargsyan (head of opposition party), Raffi Hovhannisyan (head of the only opposition party - Heritage, represented in Armenian parliament), Alexander Arzumanyan (former foreign minister in Ter-Petrosyan administration, currently detained for politically motivated charges), David Shahnazaryan (former security chief in Ter-Petrosyan administration).
(quote in Armenian from Ter-Petrosyan speech - via Lragir.am) «Հավատում եմ` կան մարդիկ, ովքեր նոր են ընդգրկվել կառավարության կազմում և գուցե ունեն ազնիվ նպատակներ` Տիգրան Սարգսյան, Էդուարդ Նալբանդյան, ևս մի երկու նախարարներ, բայց չեմ հավատում, որ այս մարդիկ կկարողանան որևէ գործնական քայլեր անել, որովհետև այս համակարգը նրանց կխեղդի»: Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանը կարծիք հայտնեց, որ կամ նրանք կդառնան ավազակախմբի անդամներ, կամ էլ նրանք դուրս են շպրտվելու այդ համակարգից:
«Ես իշխանության չեմ ձգտում: Ընտրություններից առաջ վճռել էի, որ նախագահ եմ մնալու 2-3 տարի, մաքրելու էի տիրող համակարգը, որից հետո իշխանությունը փոխանցելու էի ավելի երիտասարդ, եռանդուն քաղաքական գործիչների` Ստեփան Դեմիրճյանին, Արամ Սարգսյանին, Րաֆֆի Հովհաննիսյանին, Ալեքսանդր Արզումանյանին, Դավիթ Շահնազարյանին»:
*Zaruhi Postanjian, MP from opposition Heritage party, receiving “The Best European” award in Armenia, for her contribution to the process of country's European integration, from (ironically!) ex Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian. (Photo via Hraparak.am)
There is even more irony in that award ceremony conducted by “European Movement Armenia” – ‘European of The Year’ award recipients include also speaker of the Armenian parliament Tigran Torosyan (!) and former fake oppositionist, current head of the National Security Council Arthur Baghdasaryan. As Hraparak mentions, apparently there is no lack of ‘Europeans’ in Armenia, all we need now is... European values. If it is not for Zaruhi Postanjyan, the whole award ceremony could be easily turned into a big mockery.
Completely agree with Hraparak that Zaruhi Postanjyan deserves being called not only “The Best European”, but also the MP of The Year. I would also add that for me Zaruhi Postanjyan is also Woman of The Year in Armenia.
She is the best example as how Armenian parliamentarian should behave. She was instrumental in protecting human rights of Armenian citizens during government’s violent crackdown on opposition movement following disputed presidential elections in February 2008. She was out there, 24/7, at police stations, court hearings, endless meetings here and there, to provide legal support for detainees, political prisoners during what I would consider the worst human rights crisis in modern Armenian history.
Keep up your good work, Zaruhi! You are the best!
Friday, 27 June 2008
[...] It was the same story in Armenia in March, where the president, Robert Kocharian, ended his term in office with a media blackout that, supposedly, extended to blogs (self-published websites which typically contain the author’s personal observations and opinions). Like all other outlets, the authorities said, blogs could publish government news only. The result was a soaring number of blogs hosted on servers outside Armenia—all sharply critical of the authorities. [...]
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
PACE demands from the Armenian authorities to grant a broadcasting licence to A1+ TV station without further delay
"The Assembly recalls that there is a need for a pluralistic electronic media environment in Armenia and, referring to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the denial of broadcasting license to A1+, calls on the licensing authority to now ensure an open, fair and transparent licensing procedure, in line with the guidelines adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 26 March 2008 and with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights."
There are speculations that this is a result of some kind of behind the scenes deal between John Prescott, Council of Europe and Armenian authorities, to ensure Serj Sargsyan's administration compliance with the Resolution, while avoiding strongly worded open statements. The other possibility is that this is a consequence of John Prescott's continuing disastrous role as PACE rapporteur on the Armenian elections, in a new format. This guy should be kept away from anything related to democracy, human rights, as far as possible. If you doubt, ask anyone from the UK...
In a separate but related development, Raffi Hovhannisyan of the opposition Heritage party - the only opposition MP from Armenia in PACE - refused to participated in further PACE sessions until Armenia gets back into European track of development and comply with its obligations in terms of democracy and human rights. This move was strongly criticised by... yes, John Prescott.
"The Assembly takes note of the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights finding a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights in relation to the refusal of the Armenian authorities to grant a broadcasting licence to A1+ TV station. The authorities should now grant it a broadcasting licence without further delay, in line also with a long-standing demand of the Assembly."
From the draft Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Armenia, which will be approved tomorrow.
I mentioned in my relevant post that the importance of the European Court of Human Rights decision should not be underestimated. It was a victory for the freedom of speech, and victory for the shut down independent/pro-opposition A1+ TV station versus Armenian government. As this Resolution also proves, from now on this issue will feature prominently on Armenia's European agenda, and pressures on the authorities to grant a broadcasting licence to A1+ TV station will intensify.
Regardless of PACE demands, what is clear is that there is urgent need for radical reforms and democracy in Armenia. I just cannot see any other alternative to it. And the urgency of releasing all political prisoners is as imminent as ever. Sooner the Armenian authorities will understand this, the better it will be for the country, and for the authorities themselves. I do not think a prospect of becoming a second 'Lukashenko' in Europe is particularly attractive for Serj Sargsyan administration.
Below is a summary of the Resolution, along with the selected excerpts on implementation of key European demands by the Armenian authorities. /emphasis mine/
Full text of the draft Resolution is available here
In Resolution 1609 (2008) on the functioning of democratic institutions in Armenia, the Parliamentary Assembly set out four concrete requirements for the resolution of the political crisis that ensued after the presidential election in Armenia and resolved to consider the possibility of suspending the voting rights of the Armenian delegation to the Assembly at the opening of the June 2008 part-session, if no considerable progress on the requirements was made by then.
In the present report, the Monitoring Committee welcomes the progress achieved by the Armenian authorities in addressing the Assembly demands but notes that, despite the political will expressed by the authorities, this progress is at present insufficient to meet the requirements outlined in Resolution 1609.
While regretting the delay in implementing the concrete measures to comply with the Assembly demands, the Monitoring Committee acknowledges that the time given to the Armenian authorities was short. It therefore proposes to the Assembly to review at its January 2009 part-session the extent of Armenia’s compliance with the requirements made in Resolution 1609.
If the requirements mentioned in Resolution 1609, as well as those set in the present draft resolution are not met by then, the Monitoring Committee proposes that the Assembly considers the possibility of suspending the voting rights of the Armenian delegation to the Assembly at the opening of its January 2009 part-session.
* * *
Freedom of assembly
The requirement that the 17 March amendments to the Law on Conducting Meetings, Assemblies, Rallies and Demonstrations be revoked in line with Venice Commission recommendations has therefore been met by the authorities. However, in article 8.4 of Resolution 1609, the Assembly demanded that freedom of assembly be guaranteed in both law and practice. The implementation of the law and the willingness of the authorities to allow opposition rallies without undue restrictions placed on them are therefore crucial to assessing Armenia’s compliance with this requirement of the Assembly.
Independent inquiry into 1 March events
The suggestion made in our previous report that this inquiry could be conducted under the aegis of the Human Rights Defender was, regrettably, not acceptable to the authorities. In our opinion, this is related to the Ad Hoc Report on the Presidential Elections and Post-Electoral developments which was published by the Human Rights Defender on 25 April 2008. In this report, he raises questions about the official version of the events of 1 March 2008 and he is highly critical of the response of the authorities towards the protests that ensued after the presidential election. [...]
The fact that 4 out of the 5 factions represented in parliament belong to the ruling coalition raises questions with regard to the possibility of the committee [Unzipped - newly established parliamentary committee for an inquiry into 1 March events] to conduct its inquiry independently and impartially. Opposition representatives raised concerns that, in practice, votes in the committee would be dominated by the ruling factions. Proposals by the opposition that the committee should be composed on the basis of parity between opposition and pro-government forces or, failing that, that the decisions in the committee should be taken on the basis of consensus, were rejected.
Invitations to provide experts to participate in the work of the inquiry committee were sent, inter alia, to the Council of Europe, the OSCE/ODIHR and the European Commission. We consider the participation of international experts essential to ensure the credibility of the inquiry. However, it is equally clear that international experts will only be willing to participate if the independence and impartiality of the inquiry committee is guaranteed.
Release of political prisoners
While we welcome the recent progress in meeting this requirement of the Assembly, we cannot consider that it has so far been satisfactorily met. The cases still under investigation should be either closed or transmitted to the courts with immediate effect. The cases against those principally accused of crimes under Articles 300 and 225 should be dropped unless there is strong evidence that these persons have personally committed acts of violence. In addition, it should be clear that a verdict based solely on a single police testimony, without corroborating evidence or independent witnesses’ testimonies, cannot be acceptable.
The second issue I would like to speak about refers to Armenian-Turkish relations. Our position on the matter is distinct: there should be no closed borders between neighbor countries in the 21st century. Regional cooperation can be the best means for establishing stability. The Turkish side suggests forming a commission that would study the historic facts. We do not mind establishing that commission, but only when the border between our countries is opened. Otherwise, it can become a means of protracting the solution of the issue for many years. In the future I intend to undertake new steps to further the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. Most probably, I will invite Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul to Yerevan to watch the match between the national football teams of Armenia and Turkey.Armenia's incumbent president Serj Sargsyan, speaking during his visit in Moscow
This would certainly be a good gesture. Will it be accepted?
Sunday, 22 June 2008
P.S. Not that I was particularly impressed with the quality of Spanish football today, but Casillas made the game!
*photo - Copyright@EMPICS, via Yahoo Sport (quarter final, Spain vs. Italy)
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Answer: To set up a 'children's park' there.
To avoid 'children sensitivities', the Armenia's opposition will hold its rally in front of Matenadaran, an ancient manuscript depository in central Yerevan, this coming Friday 20 June, 6 pm.
Despite their pledge to restore basic freedoms and democracy in Armenia after 1 March events in Yerevan, the Armenian authorities did not authorise this rally and so far have not made any significant progress in meeting European obligations and demands.
In the meantime, a group of bloggers and activists signed an open letter to the people of Armenia, government and international organisations.
An Open Letter to the People of Armenia, the Government of Armenia , and International Organizations
Very soon, every citizen of Armenia will be making a decision. Each citizen will have to decide whether he or she will be venturing out to join others in front of the Matenadaran, to participate in the first large rally organized by the Opposition since the events of March 1.
Events leading up to the February 19th presidential elections, including repressions of speech and media and flagrant abuses of power during and after the voting itself, made fair elections impossible and resulted in a falsified outcome. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered, day and night, in Liberty Square to peacefully protest the official outcome. On the night of March 1st, the government of Armenia used lethal force against its own people, for which there can be no justification. Since then, Armenia has been through an unfounded State of Emergency, with a smokescreen of changes afterwards meant only to appease critics from the international community. No real changes have been instituted to restore the rights and freedoms that belong to every man, woman, and child in Armenia, who have these rights and freedoms not because they are citizens of Armenia, but because they are. And, simply stated, no article or amendment can take away those rights and freedoms.
On June 20, every citizen of Armenia will have to make that important and difficult decision. Difficult, because the present government has already proven that it considers power an end in itself, and that the use of any means is justifiable to that end.
We, the undersigned, support the people of Armenia in their rights and freedoms, in their right to gather to voice discontent in a peaceful manner against a government which has shown only disdain for its citizens.
We demand that the Government of Armenia restore those rights and freedoms to her people.
We urge those international organizations involved in promoting human, political and civil rights to be true to their principles, to not be distracted by false attempts at change, and to help ensure the rights and freedoms that belong to the people of Armenia.
A. Manoukyan [aramazd.livejournal.com]
H. Nazarian [hnazarian.blogspot.com]
HIMA Youth Movement [himaam.info]
Save Armenia Action Group [SAAG]
Manet Manukyan, daughter of political prisoner Ashot Manukyan, head of Lori ANM
John Lowe, former United States Peace Corps Volunteer, Democracy and Development, Vanadzor
Hasmik Harutyunyan [former diplomat of the Republic of Armenia]
Armenaker Kameleon [armenaker.blogspot.com]
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
This decision does not mean that A1+ will have to get back on the air, i.e. it does not oblige government to do so. However, it is extremely important in terms of wording of the European Court of Human Rights decision, which states:
The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the Armenian authorities’ refusal to grant the applicants’ requests for broadcasting licences.
From now on, the legality of depriving A1+ its broadcasting rights is no longer there, on a formal, European level. Of course, Armenian authorities may wish to downplay it, limiting their liabilities to paying 30 000 euro to A1+ for damages and expenses (as stated in a Court decision). But they can no longer ignore it.
From now on, this issue will always be on the 'moving towards Europe' agenda which Armenian government is so keen to show it is devoted for, on the level of words, at least.
Full summary of the European Court of Human Rights decision is available here
Monday, 9 June 2008
Saturday, 7 June 2008
Khosq’s creator says that he started the site’s build-up in the immediate aftermath of the post-presidential election stand-off in Armenia and 1 March events which were followed by the ‘state of emergency’ and media blackout. I remember, back then, in its early testing stages, it was called tondrak.com. He put together concepts of Citizen Journalism (like Indymedia) and Social Bookmarking (like Digg.com).
“The idea is that anybody can post their articles or blog entries and also links to other articles. And then readers can vote the articles up or down. And based on those votes the system automatically generates the front pages. There is no Chief Editor – the people collectively are the editors of the front page news.”
khosq.com is available in three language formats - Armenian, Russian, and English.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Remember all that hysteria about cases of looting in the immediate aftermath of 1 March event in Yerevan when days and nights government backed Armenian Public TV propaganda machine was showing footages of looting and airing strongly worded condemnations by various official or 'public' representatives. They were trying to justify government's use of force against protesters by depicting them as criminals, looters and similar epithets, you name it... Back then, independent and pro-opposition observers compared these attempts with a Soviet style propaganda and suggested the role of 'agent provocateurs'.
A remarkable court case today proves how this sort of propaganda machine could backfire. This story shed some light on looting incidents, in particular describing the case of three looters who were apparently proxies of incumbent president Serj Sargsyan during February presidential election. No, this does not mean that we should now consider all looters as supporters of current authorities, or 'agent provocateurs', and that there were no one among them who happened to support opposition movement, or neither. Most significantly, this case proves once more that in case of troubles and tragedies there are always people out there - regardless of political affiliations - who prefer gaining profits via others' tragedy, via ugly and criminal means. The ugliest thing of all, however, was to use these incidents and these ugly people in propaganda machine aired by what supposed to be a Public TV of Armenia.
Three men who claim to have been President Serzh Sarkisian’s election proxies were sentenced to three and a half years in prison on Wednesday for looting a Yerevan shop during the March 1 clashes between police and opposition protesters.
The Criminal Court in Yerevan convicted Hovannes Mnatsakanian, Armen Grigorian and Yuri Ghukasian of stealing 648,000 drams ($2,125) worth of goods and video surveillance and recording equipment from a shoe store in the city center. They all pleaded guilty to the accusations.
Mnatsakanian got a suspended sentence and walked free in the court. But the two other defendants, both of them residents of the southern town of Artashat, were sent to prison.
The three men, who have past criminal records, were among several dozen persons arrested following the worst street violence in Armenia’s history which left at least ten people dead. The deadly clashes broke out when security forces tried to disperse thousands of supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian who barricaded themselves on a vast street intersection outside the Yerevan mayor’s office.
The clashes, resulting in a police retreat from the scene, were followed by the looting of several nearby shops and the burning of dozens of police and civilian cars. Organizers of the protest have disavowed these acts, blaming them on government “provocateurs.”
During the trial the self-confessed looters asserted that unlike the vast majority of the detainees they are not supporters of Ter-Petrosian. They claimed that they not only voted for Sarkisian but worked as his proxies during the February 19 presidential election.
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
20 June - Armenian opposition movement led by former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan plans holding a rally in central Yerevan, Liberty sq. Opposition warns the authorities that regardless their approval rally will go ahead. It is aimed to coincide with the deadline set by Council of Europe for meeting PACE demands. I hope the authorities will be wise enough not to interfere and formally allow the rally. Special representatives of the Council of Europe will be in Yerevan in mid-June to monitor the progress (if any) in meeting Armenia's European obligations.
"To confuse, to confuse-nothing more," the philosopher replied, "to introduce into the case some other, unrelated circumstances that will entangle other people in it, to make it complicated-nothing more. And then let some Petersburg official come and sort it out. Let him sort it out, just let him!" he repeated, looking into Chichikov's eyes with extraordinary pleasure, the way a teacher looks into his pupil's eyes while explaining some fascinating point in Russian grammar.
"Yes, good, if one picks circumstances capable of blowing smoke in people's eyes," said Chichikov, also looking with pleasure into the philosopher's eyes, like a pupil who has understood the fascinating point explained by his teacher.
"They'll get picked, the circumstances will get picked! Believe me: frequent exercise makes the head resourceful. Above all remember that you're going to be helped. In a complicated case there's gain for many: more officials are needed, and more pay for them . . . In short, more people must be drawn into the case. Never mind that some of them will get into it for no reason: it's easier for them to justify themselves, they have to respond to the documents, to pay themselves off. . . So there's bread in it . . . Believe me, as soon as circumstances get critical, the first thing to do is confuse. One can get it so confused, so entangled, that no one can understand anything. Why am I calm? Because I know: if my affairs get worse, I'll entangle them all in it-the governor, the vice-governor, the police chief, and the magistrate-I'll get them all entangled. I know all their circumstances: who's angry with whom, and who's pouting at whom, and who wants to lock up whom. Let them disentangle themselves later, but while they do, others will have time to make their own gains. The crayfish thrives in troubled waters. Everyone's waiting to entangle everything." Here the jurist-philosopher looked into Chichikov's eyes again with that delight with which the teacher explains to the pupil a still more fascinating point in Russian grammar.
"No, the man is indeed a wizard," Chichikov thought to himself, and he parted from the lawyer in a most excellent and most agreeable state of mind.
*source of picture; thanks to AW for the extract
Sunday, 1 June 2008
Good news from football field. News headlines report that Reigning European champions Greece could not find the net as they finished their warm-up matches for Euro 2008 against Armenia on Sunday evening. It was the last friendly for Greece ahead of Euro-2008. A pretty dismal result for Greece (0:0). Not bad at all for Armenia.
Unfortunately, I did not watch the match, but reports vary in their assessment of the game. The AP mentions that The Greeks dominated for large spells of the game but rarely posed a threat to Armenia goalkeeper Gevorg Kasparov. IA Regnum considers the game as equal, or even with more advantages from the Armenian side.
Either Greeks are not in a proper form, or Armenians are in a good form, or both. Even though Armenia did not pass through to the final leg of Euro 2008, this sort of matches are important for keeping fit and give me a hope that in coming World Cup qualifying football matches, the first one to be against Turkey in Yerevan on 6 September we may well witness a good football. I really hope so and look forward to it. Draws with champions are not bad, but Armenian football team has to get into habit of winning too.
*source of photo - Goal.com
Children's Day is celebrated on 1 June each year. It is usually marked with speeches on children's rights and wellbeing, children TV programs, parties, various actions involving or dedicated to children, families going out etc.
On 30 May wives and children of political prisoners in Armenia staged a protest action near Prosecutor General's Office and UN office calling for the release of their husbands and dads. Children of political prisoners delivered a letter to the UNICEF representative in Armenia in connection with Children's Day. "Freedom for my dad" - that was the message of the day. It was staged on 30 May as the above offices do not work during the weekend (1 June - Sunday).
Who would have thought that instead of having fun, watching TV or films, going out to play, some Armenian children would have staged a protest action, with their moms, of course, to demand freedom for their dads, political prisoners in Armenia. It makes me very sad and angry even writing "political prisoner" next to "Armenia", that in the 21st century, in our beloved country we have political prisoners, we have children and wives of political prisoners...
Here is call to our government on Children's Day: Do not bullshit about children's wellbeing or rights today, bring back their dads from prisons. Forget about EU or Armenian opposition, or occasional bloggers who demand it. It's future of Armenia we are talking about. It's children, who does not know much about politics, who can rely only on their pure instincts and their moms. They know one thing: their dads are not with them on their very own day, and it's completely natural and right for them to ask for their freedom, even if with the help of their moms. If I were in the same situation as they are now, I would find no other way to "celebrate" this day but to be out there, to call for freedom for my dad...