STEPANAKERT—The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Police on Friday moved to dismiss 10 officers for their violent response to an incident on January 31 near Berdzor, where Karabakh police officers attacked members of Armenia’s “Founding Parliament,” who were leading a caravan to Artsakh, to advance their goals of regime change in Armenia.
According to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, an ad hoc police commission had petitioned the Artskah Police Chief Kamo Aghajanyan to relieve the 10 officers of their duties and to take disciplinary action against 15 other policemen.
The recommendation came after a month-long inquiry that found the officers had committed “blatant” abuses against leaders and members of the Yerevan-based group Founding Parliament (previously known as Pre-Parliament), an opposition group led by one-time Karabakh freedom fighter Jirayr Sefilian. Police Chief Aghajanian is yet to act on the recommendation.
On Jan. 31, police and unidentified men blocked and assaulted around 40 cars traveling from Armenia to Artsakh on the Goris-Stepanakert Highway near Berdzor, preventing members of the group from crossing into Karabakh.
Following the attack, the Founding Parliament said in a statement that around a dozen participants of the car rally, under the banner of “100th Anniversary without This Regime,” had suffered injuries in an ambush by NKR police—some in uniform, others in civilian clothing, and some masked. Police wielded bayonets at the cars and at rally participants in an incident that was caught on film. Car windows were smashed, and the tricolor flags were snatched off the vehicles.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia Representative Aghvan Vardanyan told reporters on Feb. 2 that the incident in Berdzor was unacceptable, and that it must be condemned. Vardanyan also stressed that “the approaches, modus operandi, and goals of Pre-Parliament, especially its slogan ‘100th Anniversary without This Regime,’ are unacceptable to us. You can’t tie [the Centennial] with our domestic problems, because the Centennial of the [Armenian] Genocide is an entirely different issue, where national unity is needed. No good came out of the use of force. This is unacceptable for us. It is also dangerous. Certain forces within Armenia and abroad will try to use this intolerable incident to polarize the country, or to drive a wedge between Armenia and Karabagh.”
On Feb. 3, President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Bako Sahakian held a meeting with Police Chief Aghajanyan, National Assembly Chairman Ashot Ghoulyan, Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan, and other officials regarding the police blockade and assault.
After the meeting, Sahakyan’s office confirmed that he had commissioned Aghajanyan to conduct a detailed investigation of the incident. “Unfortunately, the subsequent development of events had an undesirable outcome. Tragically, it was impossible to avoid the disturbances and confrontation, which received public resonance,” read the statement.