By Astghik Bedevian
The government has delayed its second attempt to push through a bill that would restrict the authority of Armenia’s top official charged with protecting human rights.
The National Assembly agreed on Wednesday to a government request to postpone by one month debate on relevant draft amendments to Armenia’s law on human rights ombudsperson.
The amendments were already submitted to the legislature last spring. But they were rejected by its standing committee on legal affairs and did not even reach the parliament floor. The government responded by securing a Constitutional Court verdict last May that declared unconstitutional legal provisions allowing Ombudsperson Larisa Alaverdian to demand written explanations and other documents from Armenian courts. Alaverdian denounced the court’s verdict.
Justice Minister David Harutiunian, who leads the government effort, on Wednesday again accused Alaverdian of abusing that right. “Using provisions of the law, the ombudsperson demanded that courts make assessment of a particular situation,” he said. “She tried to direct activities of courts.”
Harutiunian also claimed that the authority enjoyed by the human rights defender contradicts international norms. However, some European experts have claimed the opposite. “The ombudsman’s participation can in no way affect the courts’ independence,” Andrzej Malanowski, a senior aide to Poland’s ombudsman, said last April.
The chairman of the parliament’s legal committee, Rafik Petrosian, also remains opposed to the government initiative. “I continue to believe that the provisions in question must remain in the law,” he told RFE/RL.
Petrosian suggested that the Armenian authorities postponed the parliament debate on the issue because of the November 27 referendum. “They apparently don’t need additional noise at this point,” he said.
(Photolur photo: David Harutiunian.)