THOMAS HAMMERBERG, Council of Europe High Commissioner for Human Rights, arrived in Yerevan on Sunday on a three-day official visit. Yesterday evening, after finishing all the planned meetings and visits, Mr. Hammerberg also met with the journalists.
Although the CoE Commissioner said that during the past three days he had already estimated the process of the implementation of PACE Resolutions # 1609 and 1620, he also deemed it necessary to add the following: “I have already received the answers to some questions. I will have submitted my report to the PACE Monitoring Committee by September 11 and anticipate to receive answers to some more questions.”
The correspondent of “Hayots Ashkharh” tried to figure out whether the Commissioner had got familiarized with the process of implementing the resolutions or he had only managed to make assessments? This time, Thomas Hammerberg’s answer was more precise. “Within the period of three days, I have managed obtain maximum information and collect maximum facts. From this moment till September 11, there will be an additional correspondence between the authorities and me, and we will be exchanging information.
Naturally, if I were to submit my report to the Monitoring Committee tomorrow, I would state that the resolution was not fully implemented.”
In the meantime, Mr. Hammerberg called on us to consider and comment upon the statements directly by himself. “I have heard that some ministries have published press releases regarding the contents of our meetings with the ministers. To make it clear, I would like to say that I want to express my opinions myself.”
Let’s note that during the past three days, the CoE High Commissioner met with the President of the Republic, the Minister of Justice, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the NA Speaker, several of parliamentarians as well as L. Ter-Petrosyan. He also visited the places of detention and talked to several detainees, their wives and relatives.
Thomas Hammerberg especially touched upon the Foreign Minister’s statement according to which he had allegedly agreed that instituting a criminal case based on police testimonies conforms to the international practice.
“The PACE Resolution passed in June specifies quite clearly that no conviction is allowed based on police testimonies. This is the attitude adopted by the Council of Europe and me with regard to the current situation. This doesn’t mean that such cases should be treated so strictly in any country. The thing is that the law enforcers are perceived as the people’s opponents in а politically tense atmosphere. In such situation, the proofs confirming the accusation become important.”
The speaker also substantiated the issue why the arrested organizers and participants of the March 1 events cannot be considered as political prisoners. “I have expressed my concerns that some of the politically active individuals have been in detention for already 4 months and their cases are not sent to the court.
I have suggested that all the cases be sent to the court provided there is available evidence. Otherwise, these individuals should be released. I am sure that the rights of the politically active individuals should be protected as much as the rights of all the other people.”
For some journalists, Thomas Hammerberg specially underscored that his activities were independent of the activities of the Council of Europe, and at the same time, he didn’t possess levers for influencing that body or imposing anything upon it. And in response to one of the journalists’ question as to what levers were necessary for exerting pressures upon Armenia, the Commissioner for Human Rights answered, “It’s up to them what to do. I don’t give them instructions as to whether or not to punish anyone. I just present the facts available to me. That’s all I can do.”