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By Astghik Bedevian
The leadership of the Armenian parliament effectively refused on Tuesday to delay the impending resignation of the state human rights ombudsperson, Larisa Alaverdian, until the election of her successor in accordance with the country’s newly amended constitution.

One of the amendments enacted by the Armenian authorities, stipulates that the official in charge of human rights protection, appointed by the president until now, will be chosen by the National Assembly. Under Armenia’s law on the ombudsperson, Alaverdian has to resign on January 5, one month after the amendment’s entry into force. But it does not set any time frames for the election of the new human rights defender.

In an open letter to parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian released on Monday, Alaverdian said she should therefore be allowed to continue to perform her duties in the interim. She warned that failure to keep her in office would paralyze the Ombudsperson’s Office as “the constitution and the law recognize only the defender, while his/her staff … can not perform any functions independently.”

The parliament’s press office told RFE/RL that Baghdasarian has no intention to respond to the letter, suggesting that he finds the outgoing ombudsperson’s demands unacceptable. The leader of the parliament’s largest pro-government faction, Galust Sahakian, agreed with the speaker’s position. Sahakian indicated that the parliament will promptly elect Alaverdian’s replacement when it ends its winter recess on February 4.

“The [ombudsperson’s] staff will continue to work. One month is not a lot of time,” he said.

Alaverdian who was appointed as ombudsperson by President Robert Kocharian nearly two years ago, is not seen as one of the top candidates for the job. She has repeatedly lambasted the Armenian authorities’ human rights record and in particular their 2004 crackdown on the opposition. Kocharian reportedly exposed his annoyance with her activities during a cabinet meeting earlier this year.

(Photolur photo: Larisa Alaverdian.)
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