Thomas Hammarberg Urges President Sarkisian to Implement More Reforms

YEREVAN — President Serzh Sarkisian today received Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

Stressing the importance of cooperation with European structures, President Sarkisian noted that the “Council of Europe plays a unique role in the protection of human rights, deepening of democracy and ensuring rule of law.”

“We think that a great work has been done in our country over the past 20 years. At the same time we understand that we still have a long way to pass,” President Sarkisian said, expressing gratitude to Mr. Hammarberg for his contributions to the reforms implemented in Armenia.

“It’s not only the Council of Europe giving advise to Armenia, Armenia also participates in and contributed to the Council of Europe activity,” the commissioner said. “The Council of Europe is valuable for the fact that it has chosen the principle of equality of rights as its basic approach. We learn from each other in the fields of democracy, human rights and rule of law,” Thomas Hammarberg noted.

In many of the unrest related cases, the courts convicted defendants on the basis of claims made by police officers. The PACE strongly condemned this practice. The assembly also threatened to impose sanctions on its Armenian members if the authorities in Yerevan fail to comply with its resolutions in full.

“I don’t think that serious sanctions are being considered,” Hammarberg said, referring to the PACE and other Council of Europe structures.

Media Restrictions Were Also Discussed With Officials

While in Yerevan, the German commissioner also discussed what the Council of Europe sees as a lack of pluralism in Armenia’s broadcast media dominated by TV and radio stations loyal to the government. He said he specifically addressed the authorities reluctance to give new licenses to the A1+ and GALA channels.

“I think that the system, as it works today, does not guaranteed that pluralism,” Hammarberg said. Still he stopped short from explicitly urging the authorities to let A1+ resume broadcasts after a nearly decade long shutdown.

Meanwhile, President Sarkisian was quoted by his press office as telling Hammarberg that enormous work has been done by successive Armenian governments to bring Armenia’s political system and human rights practices into conformity.

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