March 1 will continue to haunt the authorities; From the Wikileaks classifieds archive
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the March 1 crime. In this regard, Radar Armenia presents the parts of diplomatic documents declassified by Wikileaks related to March 1. In the report sent to the US State Department on April 9, 2008, US Chargé d'Affaires in Armenia Joseph Pennington tells about what happened. According to "Azatutyun" radio, the documents the American official authored have been recovered.
The lack of complete public information promotes rumors that the death toll is much higher and that the government wants to hide the facts. According to one of the widely spread rumors, the government planned the murders in advance to introduce a state of emergency, suppress the opposition, and discredit the opposition leaders led by former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan. The fact that most of the victims' relatives avoid publishing the details of the circumstances of the death makes these rumors even more valuable.
Rumors were also circulating about hidden snipers killing the demonstrators so that later the authorities could introduce a state of emergency, citing the desire to prevent further casualties.
Another factor instilling confidence in the news circulating in Armenia is two controversial videos on YouTube, one of which security forces shooting at suspected protesters and the other of running them over.
A few days after the clashes in the center of Yerevan, the US Embassy has already officially appealed to the Armenian authorities requesting detailed information. The embassy sent the corresponding diplomatic note on March 5. The reply, received only on March 24, was the information provided by the General Prosecutor's Office dated March 10. In response to a request for additional information, the General Prosecutor's Office requested the embassy to send another diplomatic note.
Number of victims
After President Kocharyan declared a state of emergency on the evening of March 1, the media was allowed to report only official information. As a result of this ban on media activity, news began to circulate even before the end of the fighting on 2 March. These rumors included, in particular, stories of a much higher death toll, with the death toll ranging from 20 to 50 on March 1-2. There were also rumors about a 12-year-old girl who died in Freedom Square on the morning of March 1; however, on April 3, the child's father issued a public statement denying the rumors of his daughter's murder. At the time of writing, no information suggests that the death toll is higher than the eight officially mentioned.
One of the videos posted on YouTube shows security forces firing horizontally. Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepyan immediately described that video as fake, turning to the Yerevan office of the United Nations for an expert investigation.
Lack of respect?
Another controversial issue of the post-battle period, which has raised the displeasure of the opposition and their supporters, is the insensitivity of the authorities in honoring the memory of the eight victims.
Opposition circles noticed that President Kocharyan attended the funeral of the murdered police captain, but the same was not done in the case of the other seven victims. Some representatives of the opposition camp demanded to declare a day of mourning, but this demand never came true.
On the other hand, relatives of the victims avoid contact. There are rumors that the victims' relatives are pressured or bribed so that they "do not act."
Disgrace for pursuing the authorities
We could record that neither the Armenian society nor the international community will ever know the truth about the March 1-2 clashes. Although the versions of the authorities and the opposition are contradictory, their nature gives cause for serious concern regarding the authorities' response to the current crisis. It is also worrying that the government should be publicly accountable for the harsh and deadly measures taken. Until the rules explain to the citizens of Armenia through independent and transparent means what happened in the dark hours of March 1, the shame of these events will continue to haunt the authorities, calling into question their legitimacy.
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