Sunday, June 21, 2009

PACE helped spill the milk, will they help clean it up? On an illegal regime and Amnesty

PACE is meeting, yet again, and will be discussing Armenia, with the main session on Armenia being on June 24 (Preliminary PACE schedule).
And not surprisingly, not so very different from January of this year (and issues with Turkey, and with NK, and the Committee on March 1), the current government of Armenia is putting in a couple of measures to appear to be making steps forward. Of course, there are denials that this has to do with PACE, and is for national, other, internal reasons; some have said it would have happened even without the events of March 1. Really....
I would love to take a close look at the Amnesty document, but it is hard to find - a1plus reported on June 17 that it was confidential. Numerous articles since then have reported different criteria for the amnesty, which was approved by the National Assembly on June 19.
This is obviously related to March 1. It is obviously related to PACE. So lets see what PACE actually recommended:

From Resolution 1609 (the original Resolution, in April, 2008):
12.2. the persons detained on seemingly artificial and politically motivated charges or who did not personally commit any violent acts or serious offences in connection with them should be released as a matter of urgency
By January 2009, Resolution 1643:
8. The Assembly welcomes the increasing number of pardons, 28 to date, that have been granted by the President of Armenia and notes that more are under consideration. The Assembly expresses its expectation that this process will continue unabated. It regrets, however, that the authorities have not so far availed themselves of the possibility to use all other legal means available to them, such as amnesty, pardons or the dropping of charges, to release those who were deprived of their liberty in relation to the events of 1 and 2 March 2008 and did not personally commit acts of violence or intentionally order, abet or assist the committing of such acts. It therefore urges the authorities to consider favourably further opportunities to this end.
And June 8, 2009 - Doc 11941 from PACE
9. The Assembly remains concerned about the continued detention of opposition supporters in relation to the post-electoral events of 1 and 2 March 2008 in Armenia which, notwithstanding positive legislative changes, undermines the possibility for a meaningful dialogue between the authorities and the opposition and the normalisation of political life. It therefore urges once more the Armenian authorities to consider all legal means available to them, including amnesty, pardons and dismissal of charges, to release these persons without delay.
Which gets to the heart of the matter I'm trying to get to. Amnesty vs Pardon. Interestingly enough, these are recognized to be different (amnesty, pardon), but there do not seem to be (that I can find) internationally recognized legal definitions. Not only that, but neither the Criminal Code of the RoA nor the Constitution define them, though the former does refer to them separately. And in fact, the terms seem to be being used almost interchangeably in the reporting. Not surprising, given that many element of law in Armenia are drawn from US and French law, among others, and some of the nuances do not seem to have been refined since then. For example, while the terms Pardon and Amnesty have different meaning in English, and different etymological roots (see the links above), in the Armenian Criminal Code the terms for the two are, respectively, Nerum, and Hamanerum - which do not seem to represent separate concepts. There is no further clarification (articles 82 and 83) that I can find in the Constitution or the Criminal Code of the RoA (if you have it, please post it or send it to me).
However, the general consensus seems to be that Pardoning has to do with specific individuals, and Amnesty applies to those affected by certain legal codes, certain criteria. The two almost always involve the Executive branch (president), but this may or may not be sufficient depending on the country, and the action being taken.
As mentioned above, the true criteria being set forth in this Amnesty are unclear. But a1plus reported that the aritcle is entitled" Convicts sentenced to a 5-year imprisonment will be pardoned." Amnesty will cover detainees or defendants charged under Article 225, but not 316. Individuals sentenced to five years or more, it seems, are not eligible. Some articles state that individuals, to be eligible, will have had to have served at least one third of their sentence.

--The Amnesty of June 19 actually applies to about TWO THOUSAND individuals.
--One estimate is that of the 51 political prisoners today, only THIRTY-FOUR will be released with this Amnesty.
--It will not apply to at least several of the Seven, and would likely not apply to Jhangiryan or Manukyan, or to Pashinyan or Sukiasyan.
--The amnesty will likely result in the release of those incarcerated for election fraud in favor of the ruling coalition (such as Yeghiazaryan and Ohanyan).

With all of the above mentioned in mind, wouldn't a Pardon, of specific individuals, fulfill the PACE suggestion more? But that would require that SS specifically name those he knows he has kept imprisoned without just cause. The regime is hiding behind an amnesty, specifying and setting criteria as they wish, ensuring that key individuals remain imprisoned. I, for one, have no doubt that calculations have been made regarding duration of sentencing, and criteria for amnesty.

If Sargsyan had wanted to, it seems he could have pardoned. But he didn't. Maybe in his eyes this is the perfect path, by having less than 2% of those included in the amnesty be political prisoners, he and his cronies can claim that they were not succumbing to PACE or other pressures. But by releasing between 65-90% (various estimates) of the political prisoners, he appears to be taking a step forward and doing a great favor to the opposition, and generally fulfilling PACE's suggestions, without releasing those who would be the most threatening to him, or truly releasing political prisoners, or adhering to internationally recognized principles of Human Rights.
And if PACE believes this recent amnesty,... well,.. we've already seen how gullible, or is it tolerant or willfully oblivious, they are. Unless they stand strong and take extreme action, they will only prove what we have seen so far: they helped spill the milk, but they don't want to clean it up. Maybe they just can't, maybe they just won't.

And none of this addresses the even more fundamental issues, that, in fact, none of these prisoners should need or require Amnesty or Pardoning, as they are Political Prisoners, victims of a faulty election, a faulty judicial system, a to-date useless international community, and corrupt government.

[picture is from the website: Against Political Repressions in Armenia]

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