“Unturned page of March 1; are the authorities ready to detect the persons responsible for the murder of 10 civilians?”
The public unrests and 24/7 rallies in the Liberty Square with thousands of citizens demanding revision of election results following the presidential elections of February 19, 2008 were suppressed on March 1, 2008 as the authorities used violent force and removed from the Liberty Square the sit-in protesters staying there for the night.

Then disproportionate violent force was used against the protesters gathered in front of Yerevan Municipality near the monument to Alexander Myasnikyan and 10 citizens were killed as a result.

On the night of March 1, 2008 a state of emergency was declared in Yerevan and contrary to the law requirement, it was applied throughout the country.

10 years after the tragic events, on February 27, 2018 the Republican faction of the National Assembly voted for putting Yelk faction’s draft Statement on March 1-2 Events on the agenda of the NA plenary session.

At the discussion on “Unturned page of March 1; are the authorities ready to detect the persons responsible for the murder of 10 civilians?” hosted by the Media Center on March 1, Arakel Semirjyan, Coordinator of March 1 NGO, touched upon the hearings on March 1 at the National Assembly and noted that regardless of the purpose of such processes, he approved of wider publicizing the issue so that people never forgot March 1.

"Even if it’s just a show, I’m ready to be part of such show, so that no one forgets March 1. Now I'm saying something very bad; while I realize that all this is done to change the points, I resorted to this consciously and I attended such hearings as there is nothing else, there’s no political process and the only option was to make that show look more reasonable and make it more serious with my presence.

While I’m sure that it’s all just a show, I’ll anyway do my best to make it real."

Speaking about putting the draft Statement on March 1-2 Events on the agenda of the NA plenary session, Semirjyan noted that it could not lead to any legal implications but still was worth to be talked about.

"You know I can make 677 statements and put them on the session agenda, but will there be any political or legal changes? Anyway, our task is not to let the March 1 events to be forgotten; this issue should be kept vital every moment and the show should be brought back to the real platform."

Human rights activist Artur Sakunts, Chairman of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor, spoke about the urgent necessity to detect the March 1 events, give a legal assessment and punish the perpetrators as it was only then that we would be able to reduce the recurrence of similar events in the future. The human rights activist also notes that as long as the issue of responsibility for the crime is not resolved, the country may experience shocks any time.

"I can say for sure that there will be other rebellion attempts. And this process will be impossible to halt as long as the issue of the authorities' responsibility remains open."

As for the legal assessments of March 1 case voiced so far, the human rights activist noted that its legal assessment given by the law-enforcement system does not comply with the content of its actions.

"As there was a reference to the March 1 criminal proceedings in terms of state terrorism, we identified one thing: the initiated criminal proceedings within which they are still trying to carry out the investigation as they assure, do not comply with the legal qualification of the action. The investigation should be carried out not within criminal proceedings on mass riots but rather into organized mass acts of violence, illegal actions, torture, deprivation of liberty and violent seizure of the military and constitutional order by the authorities. This is the legal base and the March 1 events should be examined in these frames."

Artur Sakunts shares Arakel Semirjyan’s opinion that there are sufficient grounds for questioning the former and current RA presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan.

However, another discussion speaker Vardan Harutyunyan, Chairman of the Rights and Freedom Center NGO, believes that questioning the above persons will not settle the issue.

"They can summon Robert Kocharyan to the current prosecutor. He would provide relevant testimony, then they would have a cup of coffee together, embrace each other and part, but this would not result in punishing the organizers and perpetrators of detected March 1 crime."

In terms of punishing the perpetrators of such crimes, the human rights activist clearly highlights the need for an independent judiciary system.

"The absence of fair courts of law will keep on postponing putting an end in all these crimes, including that of March 1."

Derenik Malkhasyan, Media Center Project Editor/Coordinator

To contact the author, please email him: [email protected]

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