By Anush Martirosian
Armenia’s main ruling and opposition forces criticized on Wednesday the state human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian, for his latest annual report that decried the country’s “oligarchic” political system but barely mentioned last year’s dramatic post-election developments.
The 250-page report released on Tuesday concluded that a selective and discretionary enforcement of laws by successive Armenian governments is the root cause of human rights abuses reported over the past year. It said the authorities in Yerevan have preserved and relied heavily on a “repressive” security apparatus inherited from the Soviet Union.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a spokesman for President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), dismissed the report as “unsubstantiated” and “not objective.” “We accept that the ombudsman is supposed to make strict evaluations, but those evaluations must stem from reality,” he said.
“I don’t exclude that there are persons who were dealt with illegally. I don’t exclude that there are problems with laws in our country,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL. “But I think it would be wrong to call them widespread.”
The HHK representative insisted that Armenia is a “young democratic country.” “The course of democratic reforms, which has deepened under President Serzh Sarkisian, should continue,” he said.
Harutiunian was criticized in even stronger terms by Levon Zurabian, a leading member of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). “The human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian, has taken on the role of an advocate of Serzh Sarkisian’s regime,” Zurabian charged.
He argued that the report made little mention of irregularities reported during the February 2008 presidential election as well as the ensuing bloodshed in Yerevan and mass arrests of opposition members and supporters. “The ombudsman’s report sacrificed these facts for the sake of meaningless social-political analyses,” Zurabian told RFE/RL.
Harutiunian said on Tuesday that he already assessed those dramatic developments in a special report issued in April 2008. That report accused the authorities of using excessive force against thousands of supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian who took to the streets to demand a re-run of the disputed election.