ՄԱՐՏ ՄԵԿ (March First 2008)

Eight years ago on March the first (ՄԱՐՏ ՄԵԿ) 8 innocent civilians and 2 security personnel were killed in Yerevan, by security forces (Army/police/special force?) during a public demonstration by the supporters of then the “defeated” presidential candidate Levon Ter Petrossian for the alleged rigged vote in favor of the current president Serj Sarksyan. (His reelection in 2013 was also alleged to have been rigged and was followed by lengthy demonstrations this time by the supporters of the “defeated” presidential candidate Raffi Hovnissian. Thankfully this time around there were no casualties).

As the saying goes “down deep” I believe that both of these elections were rigged, plus, and especially, the referendum vote on Dec. 6. 2015, that I followed closely on the internet and watched a few video clips showing some irregularities, but unless factual evidence is produced and an independent court confirms the violations, I will continue to call them “alleged”.

The March first demonstrations actually started immediately after the February 19 electoral vote count and continued till March the first when security forces tried to disperse the demonstrators by force, and as a consequence, the tragic incident happened. So far no official inquiry is conducted, no relatives of the victims, or any human rights organization, has taken any legal action, and even no investigative journalist that Armenia claims to have many, has pursued and documented this crime, and shed some factual light on this tragedy.

Since 2008 every year on March the first, demonstrations are organized by the opposition parties usually by the initiative of the ANC headed by Levon Ter Petrosyan the first president of the Republic of Armenia. They call for a long-overdue official inquiry to unearth the evidence and punish the guilty. Indeed a worthy cause to be pursued, and must be pursued more through the courts rather than through demonstrations.

This year it was no different. Six opposition parties participated including ANC. At the end of the demonstration, they issued a joint statement that in part reads “We are going to consistently work towards the disclosure of the March 1 crimes so that all those who issued orders, organized and executed [the killings] be brought to justice…,”.

Unfortunately, similar statements have been issued after demonstrations, or on different occasions, during the past eight years and nothing else has been done. For us Armenians if there was one fundamental issue that needed to show what values we stand for, or if we were a people that believes in justice and has the courage to pursue it, this tragic event had to be it.

This tragic event was not just a case of violating the constitutional right of the freedom of speech of the citizens of Armenia through peaceful demonstrations. It was more than that, much more. Ten innocent people, human beings, and Armenian citizens, were killed by ARMENIAN security forces, and all of these forces, be it the police, the army, special forces, etc, and their leadership, are suspects of criminal acts or harboring criminals.

It shall not be acceptable to say that, the courts of justices in Armenia are corrupt, and people do not believe in them. I have seen independent poles by polling companies with reputable names that of international polling companies that, the vast majority of the people in Armenia, do not believe in the court of the justice system in Armenia and will refrain from going to court to claim justice and get a fair judgment. Need I say that this “belief” makes these unfortunate vast majorities feel like second-class citizens in their own county, and doing nothing about it is nothing more than perpetuating this rotten system.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the case. There are many precedent cases where many other known assassinations, political or otherwise happened, that were not pursued, and no need to mention them here. Let me emphasize that, with today’s  IT technology and smartphones everywhere, I cannot imagine that, no pictures, or videos, were taken that could be presented in the courts, and even widely circulated through social media to back it up.

It is a known fact that courts in Armenia are politicized and controlled by Soviet-trained oligarchs that govern the country. But those are no reasons for doing nothing, or worst yet, paying only lip service to them and being satisfied with it. These are issues that opposition parties must fight with all legal means not only to earn the support of the people of Armenia but also, especially so, to help set a culture of fairness and justice in the country. Unfortunately, the many human rights organizations in Armenia with fancy names and few self-claimed human rights lawyers, are silent as well, or maybe just complain about it at the wrong places, and case closed. What a shame.

Diaspora could not remain a spectator in this case specialty so, for the legal professionals, and there are many of them. There are many Armenian lawyers, lawyer’s associations, many retired judges, legal experts, and legal academics, that could support initiatives taken in Armenia or even help the justice-seeking Armenian citizens, or none politicized human rights organizations, to initiate the action in Armenia, or if possible, pursue it through international courts.

For diaspora Armenians, this cannot be considered to be a political issue. It is an issue of human tragedy, a human rights issue, and could support it without being perceived to be interfering in the interior political affairs of Armenia that the diaspora Armenians have no right to do as citizens of foreign countries. (Unfortunately, it seems that the only thing that diaspora Armenians are interested in doing other than charitable acts, is meddling in Armenia’s politics with hollow rhetorics and discredited meaningless slogans)

It has been eight years and this unsolved tragic event is a big stain on the Armenian people as a whole, both, in Armenia and Diaspora. Unless this stain is erased through a credible and impartial official inquiry and the criminals brought to justice, Armenia could not claim to be a fair and just country, and Armenians as a whole could not claim to have the courage to pursue justice and will be considered to be a subservient peopleԸստրկամիտ ժողովուրդ.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian.

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