Karen Andreasian, a 33-year-old lawyer and former television host, was elected and sworn in as Armenia’s new state human rights ombudsman on Wednesday.
Andreasian’s candidacy was nominated last week by the Armenian parliament majority loyal to President Serzh Sarkisian. Its endorsement by the full National Assembly was thus a mere formality.
The previous ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian, stepped down last month to serve as the representative of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Central Asia.
Answering lawmakers’ questions before the vote, Andreasian said he regards human rights advocacy as “a service that must be provided free of charge.” He said that one of his first objectives will be to raise citizens’ awareness of the Office of the State Human Rights Defender and its powers.
“If people demand judicial justice, we won’t be able to do that because we don’t look into court cases,” Andreasian told the parliament.
The new ombudsman was careful not to pass judgment on the state of human rights protection in Armenia. Nor would he say whether he agrees with opposition claims that there are political prisoners in the country.
Representatives of the parliamentary majority lavished praise on Andreasian, portraying him as a competent professional who will successfully accomplish his mission.
Opposition deputies were far more skeptical. One of them, Lilit Galstian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), said Andreasian’s main merit for the authorities is his loyalty to Sarkisian.
Andreasian refused to speak to journalists after the swearing-in ceremony. In a written statement issued later in the day, he said he will not give interviews for the next 50 days.