December 8, 2011
Armenian draft law on lustration discussed at NCI
Yerevan—A round-table discussion on Armenia’s draft law on lustration focusing on preventive measures for crimes against fundamentals of the constitutional order and state security was held today at the National Citizens’ Initiative, NGO.
Stepan Safaryan, the leader of the Heritage party’s faction in parliament and the author of this legislative piece, and Azat Arshakyan, a Soviet-era political prisoner, were the keynote speakers of the event.
Opening the discussion, Armen Torosyan of NCI—who has worked on the drafting of the document as a National Assembly expert—pointed out it is crucial to hold public discussions on the draft as it would help considering a wide range of opinions when the draft is debated at the National Assembly.
Stepan Safaryan introduced the essence of the draft and the expected legal and political outcomes. He said that when working on the draft, the working group thoroughly studied the similar laws adopted by Germany, Hungary, Poland, Albania, Georgia, and the Baltic countries. On the one hand, he said, this has helped incorporating mechanisms that would allow us to neutralize the threats posed by foreign agent networks to Armenia’s national security, and on the other hand, to avoid negative consequences that had occurred in other countries, such as using the law against certain political ideologies. He pointed out that the law applies to only those who had cooperated with the former Soviet intelligence before September 21, 1991, who currently hold high-level political positions. The information about those people would be made public only if they refuse to step down, so this is a partial lustration, anyway, he said.
Azat Arshakyan started his speech with a brief story about an outstanding national figure, academician Hrachya Acharyan: when the “chekist” interrogating him at the KGB, not being satisfied with forcing a self-confession about being spy of different states, slaps that thin and partially blind genius, Acharyan, puzzled at obscenity of the “chekist,” asks: “Aren’t you afraid of the history?”. And the arrogant “checkist” gives such a reply: “As far as we live, there is no history; when there will be history, we will not be alive”.
Then he highlighted several aspects of the law that refer to the security and prevention of future crimes. He also mentioned that European Court of Human Rights has recognised the Soviet regime as a criminal regime along with the Nazi administration. And if of course we see our state on that pole of civilization, if our parties apply for becoming a member of European People’s Party - which is a union of Christian and democratic values - we have to adopt the Law on Lustration.
The former political prisoner said he forgives those who had betrayed him and those who had sentenced him to give their children a chance to live free.
Speaking at the event, Karapet Rubinyan, the leader of the 3A Initiative, said he know—but cannot prove—that during the early period of the Karabakh Committee’s activities, its members had raised the issue of lustration; some of them had confessed they had co-operated with the Soviet special services in the past. He said after that the Karabakh Committee members decided those confessions were turning the page and that they can go on working normally; however, some those people held top government positions later.
National Assembly expert Serine Khachatryan, member of the working group, explained that the draft also has a provision that calls for criminal procedures against officials trying to conceal relevant information.
Talking about the importance of lustration ACNIS director Manvel Sargsyan identified an important issue connected with people who in the territory of former Soviet Azerbaijan cooperated with secret agencies of that state and now have moved to Armenia and can be threatened by the current Azerbaijan special agencies to act against the interests of the Republic of Armenia. Particularly he mentioned cases when even in Artsakh there are people today who campaign against independence of Artsakh and can be connected with Azerbaijan special agencies. The speakers agreed with that idea, moreover, Styopa Safaryan mentioned that the same connections can have a real impact on acting against independence and sovereignty of Armenia and on campaign of reestablishment of the USSR and joining Russia. Manvel Sargsyan identified a challenge on the way to adoption of lustration, namely, unlike those states which after independence defined the Soviet period as the period of their occupation and based on that they can consider people who cooperated with USSR special agencies as foreign agencies, the Republic of Armenia has recognized the succession of Soviet Armenia.
NCI coordinator Hovsep Khurshudyan noted that this draft can become a test for all political authorities and even without adopting it has become a cause of numerous “self-revelations”. He also said that he partially shares the pessimism of Heritage party secretary Karine Hakobyan about adoption of the law by the majority. Particularly, unlike ANC, the heads of which have expressed only negative and strictly critical views, such influential representatives of the Republicans as Rafik Petrosyan and Hovhannes Sahakyan have expressed overall positive opinion about the draft. That is logical as at the beginning of the 90s during the first Supreme Council co-authors Paruyr Hayrikyan and head and founder of the Republican Party Ashot Navasardyan developed Law on Lustration. And the acceptance of political heritage of that party leaves no place for nowadays Republicans not to agree with the law. Hopsep Khurshudyan also proposed MPs of Heritage to invite such people who stood at the outfall of Armenia’s independence and were detained by the Soviet regime, such as Paruyr Hayrikyan and Azat Arshakyan, to make speeches at the National Assembly, as it would happen if Ashot Navasardyan and Andranik Margaryan were alive.
Representative of “Liberal Democrats” Party Arthur Avtandilyan, analyst Suren Movsisyan, AUA lawyer Armen Mazmanyan, publicist Marine Petrosyan and others took part in the discussion. Marine Petrosyan noted that the adoption of the law should be viewed in the context of national security and decrease the dependency on Russia.
The secretary of Heritage faction Larisa Alaverdyan, who put the draft into circulation, mentioned in the end that such a professional discussion was very useful and will become the basis for the improvement and strengthening of the draft law.