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President of Armenia bans leading opposition party

Armenian Government Shuts Down Nation's Largest Daily Newspaper

The President of Armenia, Levon Ter Petrosian, in a televised address on December 28, 1994, banned the nation's leading opposition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), jailed its leadership, and shut down Yerkir, the country's largest daily newspaper.

Throughout the evening, government security forces arrested top ARF leaders, editors of the party press, and leaders of several women's, youth, athletic, and cultural organizations. Acting without warrants, police seized computers, fax machines, files, and printing equipment from the offices of the ARF and its affiliates. In addition to Yerkir, government forces also closed several other literary, women's, cultural, and youth publications.

The government's move against the ARF comes amid its increasingly strident criticism of a broad range of opposition groups and on the eve of upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for Spring. Agence France Presse reported today that "the decision to suspend [the ARF] comes as Ter Petrosian is facing growing criticism of his policies in the run-up to the general elections in May."

In recent weeks the government has jailed a number of opposition leaders from across the political spectrum. The ARF, along with a growing number of other political parties, has faulted the government for failing to adopt a constitution and for its slow progress in implementing democratic reforms. Over 40 members of the Armenian Parliament have suspended their activity in the Parliament in protest against the concentration of power by the President.

DECREE BY THE ARMENIAN PRESIDENT LEVON TER-PETROSSIAN

On December 28, the Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian issued a decree suspending the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiune), a public and political organization.

Taking into account:

that a secret intelligence service with militarized and diversified structure was established and was put into operation within the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun);
that this intelligence service carried out a reconnaisance mission both in economic and military spheres and by this endangered the national security of the Republic;
that it participated in elaboration and using of international routes of drug trafficking Beirut-Yerevan-Moscow and other countries;
that ARF-Dashnaktsutiun set up illegal economic structures, which were involved in racket;
that this organization formed armed units and with their assistance committed assasinations and plotted a number of acts of violence;
that during its illegal activities used the official structures of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun) and its sister organizations, namely "Armenian General Education and Culture Union", "Armenian Relief Cross", "Nicholas Abgalian" Students' Union and "Armenian General Sports Union" ;
that the above-mentioned secret organization was set up in compliance with a resolution by the Bureau - the top administrative organ of ARF - Dashnaktsutiun and carried out all its activities with Central Committee's consent;

I, the President of the Republic of Armenia, in order to prevent further unlawful actions by the above-mentioned secret organization and ensure the safety of the citizens of Armenia declare about the suspension of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation - Dashnaktsutiun, a public and political organization, until the resolution of the issue in accordance with law in force.

President of the Republic of Armenia
Levon Ter-Petrossian
December 28, 1994, Yerevan.

In response to the December 28, 1994, decision by Levon Ter Petrosyan to outlaw the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiune, on December 29, 1994, the party's Bureau and Central Committee in Armenia, as well as the parliamentary caucus of the ARF issued the following announcements.

DECLARATION OF THE ARF BUREAU

To all ARF members and the Armenian People

On the night of Wednesday, December 28, the President of the Republic of Armenia, in yet another televised speech, which by far overshadowed that of 29 June 1992 [exiling the head of the ARF Bureau from Armenia], through an illegal decree that oversteps the authority granted to him by the law, and citing fabricated allegations that are merely a product of the imagination, "temporarily" outlawed the activities of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and affiliated organizations throughout Armenia. Some of our leading as well as rank-and-file members [ungers] in Armenia have been arrested; our centers, clubs, and editorial offices have been unlawfully searched, as have the homes of a large number of members; the possessions and offices of the party have been confiscated by force; and our official publications, Azatamart and Yerkir, as well as the Hailour news agency, have been shut down. A foul atmosphere of unease, insecurity, and terror has been created.

From the very beginning, the regime that came to rule Armenia pursued a consistently anti-ARF policy based on the precept that the ARF does not have the right to even exist. The ARF was unwillingly driven to becoming the opposition in Armenia, even while its activities were grounded in the proposition that Artsakh's struggle for freedom must succeed, and that a national state--and a democratic and just order--must be created in Armenia. Unwillingness to enter into dialogue with the opposition also led that regime to adopt positions rejecting the role of other national parties and questioning their right to exist--in the homeland or abroad--with the clear objective of establishing an autocratic order.

Thus, indiscriminate methods were used in the efforts to destroy the structures of the ARF and obstruct the expansion of its operations. When the attempts to incite the ARF into taking adventuristic actions failed, and ARF Bodies demonstrated restraint in the face of overt provocation, the regime that had come to rule Armenia resorted, under the direct leadership of the president of the republic, to the base method of bringing to light imaginary "evidence."

The anti-ARF campaign became a permanent fixture. For years the state's propaganda apparatus served to discredit the ARF. Without verification, new and old anti-ARF writings and accusations were printed in the official press and echoed on television and the radio. It was no secret that the government's investigations were directed against a non-existent "internal enemy," even as the entire Armenian people was involved in the national liberation struggle of Artsakh, Armenia was being subjected to external threats, and the country was infested by a diverse assortment of operatives seeking to break the national will of Armenians in the homeland.

After each manifestation of anti-ARF hysteria, the ARF avoided taking extreme positions and called for dialogue--for the sake of national unity, the successful prosecution of Artsakh's liberation struggle, and the consolidation of Armenian statehood. Nevertheless, the accusations against the ARF and the attempts to discredit it continued, at a renewed and unprecedented pace. The repressive measures against the opposition in general, and the ARF in particular, increased step by step--at a time when the only means for emerging from the socioeconomic crisis faced by the people of Armenia was through the union of all forces and their joint efforts.

The ARF Bureau categorically rejects the direct and indirect allegations fabricated against the party. At this grave moment, confronted with what are actions against the nation-- intended to obstruct the role of the ARF in national life and to repudiate a legacy created by more than a century of endeavor and struggle--the ARF Bureau:

--Demands that all our members in the homeland and abroad remain altogether stoical and not resort to any steps that may endanger the people of Armenia, who, as it is, are living under tragic conditions economically, socially, and in the everyday aspects of life

--Renews its commitment to spare no effort for the attainment of our national goals, for the sake of the consolidation of a genuine national statehood and the realization of the just aspirations of the Armenian people

--Resolutely re-affirms that the right of the ARF, and its responsibility, to operate on the soil of the homeland to carry out work dedicated to the nation, cannot be subverted by presidential decree or any other repressive measure.

ARF BUREAU
29 December 1994

ARF BUREAU ANNOUNCEMENT TO ITS RANKS AND THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE

Following the recent, unprecedented propaganda campaign and countless conspiracies against the ARF as well as the illegal arrest of ARF members on baseless charges by the authorities-- what was sadly anticipated, has now occurred. The authorities of Armenia, in particular the office of the president, seeking to secure and then legitimize a halting of ARF activities, utilizing fabricated and tampered documents, and by purposefully misinterpreting seized documents, they are attempting to discredit the party, its leadership, and those dedicated to the nation, before its members and the Armenian people.

At any given moment, or day, they may attempt to defame and besmirch many names, but history may not be abridged in a single day or a moment. This is not the first time the ARF has received such a blow. And, after such blows the ARF has always emerged stronger and wiser.

We are certain, that you -- our people and members -- will not panic, and you will not succumb to conspiratorial incitements, and will be able to reestablish organizational structure through legal means. It is only through a strong structure that one may attain justice, and only through these structures may our people participate in long awaited democratic and electoral processes integral to the stabilization of our statehood, a precept upon which the ARF was founded.

Our independent state is still surrounded by dangers and the Artsakh issue has not yet reached its just solution. Our people, heavily suffering from injustice and depravation, has reached extreme poverty. Under the guise of veiled democracy, the true image of despotism has emerged. This, coupled with the severe paranoia--a salacious penchant for hunting-down a purported enemy within--displayed by the current authorities of Armenia, could turn our country into a virtual hell, bearing dark and vengeful passions.

Beware and remember, the ARF is the party of the nation and defends only the interests of the nation. Remember, governments, whether they are ANM or ARF, will come and go, but the nation, the homeland, is eternal.

29 December 1994

ARF CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF ARMENIA ANNOUNCEMENT TO ITS RANKS AND THE PEOPLE

On December 28, 1994 a presidential decree "temporarily" halted the activities of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation- Dashnaktsutiune in Armenia, thus beginning the latest phase in a relentless campaign of persecution against the ARF. Adamantly pursued by Armenia's current leadership, particularly during the past two months, this campaign aims to prohibit all activities of the ARF. All sorts of methods and tactics to defame and discredit the ARF are now being initiated. Violations of basic and fundamental norms of democracy, human rights, freedom of speech and expression, as well as the breaching of the very bases for free political and social activities is taking place. The offices of party media--Azadamart and Yerkir--have been closed and properties impounded. ARF offices and assets have been illegally confiscated. Yerevan resembles a city under siege.

At this decisive moment, the ARF, realizing its responsibility toward the people and history, is certain that justice will prevail and truth will persevere. The ARF's return to Armenia is permanent and the party is ready to defend its rights and ideology with integrity and valor. The party, particularly calls on its members to remain calm and courageous, at this critical juncture, and assures all that the ARF has never--and will never-- deviate from its mission of serving the supreme interests of the Armenian nation. Even under these unprecedented persecutions the ARF will be lead by the interests of all the Armenian people, in the name of strengthening Armenia's statehood.

Fellow Armenians,

Although, the party's normal activities have been disrupted by these illegal and immoral actions, we will still take this opportunity and wish you--our people--a happy new year and merry Christmas, in these trying times, and highly commend your endurance and wisdom to differentiate right from wrong.

ARF Central Committee of Armenia
December 29, 1994

DECLARATION OF ARF PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS

On 28 December 1994, the first stage of the campaign against the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was completed, with the illegal decree and televised speech of President Levon Ter- Petrosyan of the Republic of Armenia, a speech saturated with fabricated and false "substantiation."

The ruling political clique, unable to find a way out of the difficult socioeconomic situation created as a consequence of the very policies it has carried out, is now implementing a policy of state terror characteristic of dictatorial states, in an attempt to make the opposition the scapegoat.

It is conducting a particularly intolerant policy against the ARF, as a result of the consistently steadfast stance of the party and the trust that wide segments of the people have placed in it. The present regime, with the President of the Republic of Armenia at its head, has used all the resources provided by the machinery of the state; moreover, it has concentrated power by bringing the legislative and judicial branches of government under its control.

In particular, the President of Armenia, trespassing beyond the bounds of authority granted him by the law "On the President of the Republic of Armenia," has violated Article 7 of the Republic of Armenia law "On public-political organizations," according to which it is the Supreme Court of the Republic of Armenia that may halt or outlaw the activities of public- political organizations.

The Parliamentary bloc of the ARF condemns the policies that are shaking the very foundations of our statehood and taking us toward political confrontation, policies that are being implemented under the leadership of the President of Armenia; with all determination we declare that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation has always struggled and will continue to struggle against all a[nti]-national forces, for the sake of the advancement of the Armenian people and the realization of its national aspirations.

29 December 1994

The declaration was read during a press conference held by the ARF Parliamentary bloc, on December 29, in the Armenian Parliament Building.

SUPREME COURT OF ARMENIA BANS ARF-D ACTIVITIES FOR SIX MONTHS
ARF-D EFFECTIVELY BARRED FROM DEFENDING ITSELF IN COURT

In an expected verdict, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Armenia banned the activities of the main opposition party in Armenia. The verdict came after an illegal decree by the Armenian President effectively barred the party from defending itself in court.

At the conclusion of a two-day civil trial session, on Friday, January 13, 1995, the Supreme Court of Armenia ruled to cease the activities of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiune for six months, the maximum sentence according to the Republic of Armenia law "On Public-Political Organizations."

The basis for the Supreme Court's ruling is the fact that the majority of the members of the ARF-D Bureau (an international body which coordinates the worldwide activities of the ARF-D) are citizens of foreign countries. The Supreme Court ruled that this is in contradiction of the laws of the Republic of Armenia "On Public-Political Organizations" and the "On Legal Status of Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Armenia."

During the first day of the Supreme Court session, on Thursday, January 12, 1995, ARF-D member of Parliament Roubik Hakopian stated that following the President's decree of December 28, 1994, all documents and properties of the ARF-D were illegally seized and "the Armenian Revolutionary Federation is presently forbidden to convene any meeting, nor does it have the right or opportunity to make any official decision, including that of commissioning an attorney. The organizations right and capability to legally defend itself in court has been obstructed. I believe that this inescapable situation and legal dead-end was intentionally created by the President s decree in order to render the Armenian Revolutionary Federation incapable in presenting its case and evidence in court."

The Supreme Court continued its session without the representation of the accused party and rendered its verdict on Friday, January 13, 1995.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the arguments by the prosecution regarding the alleged existence of a secret service within the ARF-D. The Supreme Court ruled that it was premature to accept the existence of such a secret service, since several individuals who have been arrested on charges of being agents of the alleged group have not been tried yet.

On December 28, 1994, the President of Armenia in a televised address issued a decree alleging "that a secret intelligence service has been created within the social-political organization, `Armenian Revolutionary Federation,'" banned the nation's leading opposition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), jailed its leadership, and shut down Yerkir, the country's largest daily newspaper. Acting without warrants, police seized computers, fax machines, files, and printing equipment from the offices of the ARF and its affiliates. In addition to Yerkir, government forces also closed several other literary, women's, cultural, and youth publications.

The President's decree based on unfounded charges and the Supreme Court ruling effectively ban the leading opposition party from taking part in the parliamentary elections of Armenia, to be held by May, 1995.

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