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October 4, 2002

ACNIS Roundtable on Right to Life Issues in Armenia

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened today a working seminar on “The Human Right to Life and Its Protection in Armenia.”

ACNIS research director Professor Tatoul Manasserian made opening remarks. “Transitions to a democratic society are accompanied by contradictory dispositions. On the one hand, human rights protection is a matter of primary concern, while on the other, the task of eliminating the atmosphere of impunity assumes vital importance.”

The keynote topic, “Armenia and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,” was presented by Marat Atovmian, ACNIS analyst of state and legal affairs. “These basic rights might be considered from two points of view: first, the preclusion of any unlawful state encroachment upon a person’s right to life, and second, the right of the individual to determine and control his or her own life,” he said.

Mikael Grigorian, adviser to Armenia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, delivered a paper on “The Police and Protection of the Human Right to Life.” “What issues does the doctor face in treating a suffering, terminally ill patient? Do the physician, the patient, or the patient’s relatives have the right to do away with a useless life in order to put an end to the suffering? These questions go beyond the confines of medical ethics and need to be explained from the vantage point of criminal law. And under that code, it is a crime to deprive an individual of life, even with his consent or in accordance with his wish.”

In his intervention about “Applying the Death Penalty in Armenia: Cons and Pros,” Pushkin Serobian, chairman of the “August 23 National Alliance” NGO, said: “The death penalty lacks all the functions and utility normally attributed to it. The matter is artificially politicized, and scientific standards are pushed to the back seat. Public opinion is formed in a wrongful way because of the mass media’s unprofessionalism. Meaningful public discourse is not carried out with the purpose of clarifying contradictory opinions.”

Manuk Harutiunian, senior researcher of the Institute of Philosophy and Law at the National Academy of Sciences, presented his analysis on “Death Penalty or Life Imprisonment: The International Experience.” “The experience of civilized countries shows that the democratization of societal and national life is inseparable from the humanization of criminal legislation. This applies first and foremost to the issue of abolition of the death penalty.”

The formal presentations were followed by a brisk debate among former Minister of National Security Eduard Simoniants; National Assembly committee chairman Shavarsh Kocharian; Foreign Ministry legal department head Levon Amirjanian; MP Stepan Zakarian; National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI) coordinator Hrach Hakobian; former deputy Minister of Health Artak Zeinalian; sociologist Aharon Adibekian; psychologist Albert Nalchajian; Reverend Avetis Danielian of the Armenian Apostolic Church; ACNIS founder Raffi Hovannisian; and many others.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi Hovannisian and supported by the Lincy Foundation and a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2002, the Center focuses increasingly on public outreach, civic education, and applied research on critical public and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center and its activities, call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; e-mail root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am.

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