By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) asked human rights Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian on Wednesday to substantiate his request for his and his family members’ armed protection by the state.
In a weekend letter to the NSS Director Gorik Hakobian, Harutiunian said they need five bodyguards and two vehicles for that purpose, citing Armenia’s law on state human rights defender that entitles him and his closest relatives to state protection. He did not explain why he needs it now, more than two years after being elected by parliament on the recommendation of then President Robert Kocharian.
“The NSS is ready to take necessary measures and is asking A. Harutiunian to provide the facts or assumptions based on concrete phenomena which served as the basis for his request,” the security agency said in a statement. It said the NSS’s decision on whether to assign bodyguards to the ombudsman will depend on the credibility of that information.
Harutiunian indicated he will not submit any detailed justifications to the NSS. “That does not make sense because my request was not based on any concrete threats or other grounds,” he told RFE/RL. “The law says the ombudsman can apply [for armed protection,] and I applied,” he said.
Another Armenia law stipulates, however, that senior state officials like Harutiunian can have bodyguards depending on the “extent and nature of threats to their security.”
Harutiunian, who previously advised Kocharian on constitutional law, has been at odds with the Armenian authorities in recent months over their harsh response to opposition demonstrations sparked by the disputed presidential election of February 19.