September 11-March 1: Former 9/11 Commissioners in Armenia to help with unrest probe

Three experts who served on or for the 9/11 Commission in the United States have been holding meetings at the National Assembly Tuesday “to convey information and insights about the lessons learned from the U.S. experience” to Armenian counterparts conducting the probe into the post-election unrest.

Christopher Kojm, Michael Hurley and John Farmer, all of whom participated in the U.S. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (more commonly known as the 9/11 Commission), presented to the Armenian ad hoc commission looking into the March 1-2 events the guidelines and mission of the 9/11 Commission.

The experts said their main purpose was to present the whole story to the American public in detail.

They stressed that the Commission report “would have no value hadn’t the public participated in the fact-finding work.”

Another circumstance that helped the credibility of the Commission’s work, according to its former members, is that it enjoyed public trust, had equal representation of all parties and its involved members were retired leaders who bore no responsibility to the incumbent authorities and “had been selected based on their expert knowledge rather than according to party affiliation.”

March 1-2 Commission Chairman Samvel Nikoyan thinks that while the two commissions “have many things in common”, the fundamental difference is the issue under review.

“We have one fundamental difference – they investigated a national tragedy that concerned external aggression… And we are investigating an internal political issue, because the public and political field show a polarized approach,” Nikoyan said. “For this reason, political influences and public opinion pressures on our commission are rather great.”

The idea for such a visit by US experts was first proposed to Armenian officials by Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer during his visit to Yerevan last June.

While in Yerevan the experts will hold meetings not only with Commission members, but also with different officials and the country’s Prosecutor-General. However, according to a statement released by the US Embassy, they “will not directly assist in any inquiry or investigation concerning events in Armenia. They will not conduct an assessment or report about the efforts underway in Armenia.”

“The Commission should find its own way, we can only speak about our experience,” Kojm said.

The event gave rise to discussions across Armenia’s political field.
Arman Musinyan, a spokesman for Armenia’s first president and current opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan, questioned the purpose of the experts’ visit.

“If they are not involved in the commission, if they are not going to make any assessment or present any report, what usefulness can we talk about then? They have come to tell about their memories, so let them do that,” Musinyan told ArmeniaNow.

Anahit Bakhshyan, a member of the sole opposition Heritage faction in the Armenian parliament and head of the party’s political council, says that the March 1-2 commission wants to legitimize its activities with the visit of the experts.

“They want to show that they are doing work, but as a matter of fact, it cannot be useful,” she says.

Meanwhile, Suren Surenyants, a senior member of the radical opposition Hanrapetutyun party, expresses a hope that the arrival of the experts “will force the commission to make fewer distortions.”

“The fact of the sending of experts is important. It means that the outside world has serious mistrust towards the commission and this will perhaps have a sobering effect on them,” Surenyants told ArmeniaNow.