Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

‘International agencies have not seen steps taken by the Armenian government regarding prisoners of war and international crimes’: Artur Sakunts

December 10, 2020

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“The importance of the rule of law at the highest level of executive power has not been understood,” Artur Sakunts, activist and the head of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly in Vanadzor, said during a seminar organized in honor of Human Rights Day at the Article 3 press club.

According to him, if it had been understood, the constitution would have changed to begin with or the process of developing a new constitution would have begun. He said that they offered to provide a political assessment regarding the occupation of the state.  However, he regrets that the proposals were not heard and no steps had been taken. Regarding this, he said, “The constitution itself is the constitution of the occupation of this state. That is why we said that the constitution must be changed. The rules set out in this constitution cannot guarantee systemic change. No importance was attached to the formation of the law, democracy, or the state. That is why there is only one task on the agenda: have someone else come to power besides Nikol Pashinyan since the constitution has remained centered on one individual and those demanding change have prepared all the necessary mechanisms. The court and the Constitutional Court have remained the same. It’s not just about one or two people.”

Artur Sakunts said that he spoke out about the NSS in December, but no one listened to him. He said, “They were silent and indifferent. They ignored that challenge, but the biggest problem is not listening to us, not listening to constructive proposals, not at least organizing mutual dialogue around these proposals, and not doing anything. When we proposed that they should implement vetting, they countered with a mechanism that has nothing to do with vetting. Is that OK? I don’t understand. Every effort has been made so that all activities and decisions are made with that logic. Yes, the government has a responsibility.”

Regarding responsibilities, Artur Sakunts spoke about the treatment of war prisoners and the state’s responsibilities regarding war crimes. He said, “The government should be the one to initiate discussions on the treatment of prisoners of war and war crimes in international courts. But I assure you that this initiative does not exist on the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the government in bodies of which Azerbaijan and Turkey are also members. There are many letters from civil society representatives on various issues, but international organizations have not seen these steps taken by the government. This is an issue of responsibility. When they say that Turkey did not commit any violations and that is accepted as an approach, I can’t understand that.”

Meanwhile, Artur Sakunts said that the state should have worked day and night on these issues. According to him, the issue regarding the prisoners of war should not have been the only thing presented to the ECHR. They should have also presented the issues of terrorists, mercenaries, and war crimes. These are threads on which the state must work.

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