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Robert Kocharian Talks Frankly About What Happened on Mar. 1–2, 2008

In an exclusive interview to local news agency Mediamax, second president of the Republic of Armenia talked frankly about the post-election violence of Mar. 1–2, 2008: his role, his decision to call a state of emergency and the ensuing investigation.

Last month, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan gave an order to law-enforcement bodies to invigorate the investigation into the events of March 1, 2008. Oppositional figures and a great number of analysts and journalists immediately stated that the “arrows” of this order, just like the investigation itself, are directed against you.

Moreover, opinions were voiced that this process will neutralize “Kocharian’s political factor” and will deprive you of the chance to get involved in active politics in future. Are such assessments to the point and can such development really be expected? And what is your attitude towards the order of the President?

Yes, there were also many discussions as to who profited from the tragic events of March 1. The answer is simple: those who constantly manipulate these events and definitely not the authorities, either past or current. Since the general picture of the events of March 1 is quite clear. It developed in front of the entire country’s eyes, both the actions of the opposition and the reaction of the authorities.

Their essence is that the losing candidate stated that he was the President elect and that he intended to occupy the Presidential palace, neither more nor less than that. The situation drastically aggravated when the opposition took illegal actions in order to achieve that goal.

Recall, an emergency situation was introduced in Armenia when dozens of cars were already burnt or plundered, when the crowd was destroying everything on its way and when the first dead and injured appeared among the police officers and the civilians, when it became clear that the situation was totally out of control and was threatening both the constitutional order and the security of people and their property. It is simply impossible to deny this obvious fact. The emergency situation was introduced according to the Armenian Constitution in full compliance with the established procedures, and namely, after coordinating the issue with the parliamentary chair and the Prime Minister with following approval in the National Assembly. I believe this step should have been taken earlier; maybe that way we would have been able to avoid casualties.

The President does not manage the reestablishment of order in the streets directly, does not regulate use of special means. This is done by corresponding executive structures within the framework of the existing laws. It is done like this in the whole world.

The investigation into March 1 is carried out not on the legal grounds for introducing the state of emergency, but on the facts of mass unrest, which led to the loss of human lives. And the problem is that the investigation is failing to reveal all the circumstances of the deaths in order to bring particular people to charge or justify their actions by the motives of self-defense. This circumstance, of course, makes the state of the authorities vulnerable both for the local public and for international organization. I assume that this is the explanation for the recent orders by the President. Particular results of the investigation would stop all possible speculations for this topic, and I take great interest in that.

I can say definitely that no one gave out orders to shoot people. In any case, not that I know of. Obvious is the fact that all cases of people’s deaths, except for the Captain of Internal Forces, took place in a significant distance from the venue of the rally, namely, where the cars were being burnt and the stores plundered. No one really controlled the situation there: neither the police nor the oppositional leaders. I don’t know what progress has been registered in the investigation process over the past three years, but I assume that this very circumstance strongly complicates the work of investigating structures, especially since there were almost no video surveillance cameras in this part of the city in order to regain a picture of events. All eight civilians who died were ordinary people who hadn’t demonstrated their politics in any way. Four of them died from bullet wounds. But who needed to open fire on them deliberately? It is either a tragic concurrence of circumstances, or someone’s deliberate actions in order to discredit the authorities.

The fact that no notable opposition representatives had any bodily injuries proves that there were no deliberate actions on “beheading” the opposition either. It was during the days of ANM [HHSh, Pan-Armenian National Movement] that unwanted oppositionists were shot. By the way, if instead of sitting at home the opposition leader attempted to deter the crowd (agitated by him), I am sure, it would have been possible to avoid victims.

So, there is no way to direct the “arrows,” however much those who made restless by my “political factor” try.