The Armenian government rejected on Thursday an opposition bill that would require it to expose Armenians who had cooperated with the Soviet secret police and ban them from holding senior state positions.
The parliamentary faction of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party circulated the bill in the National Assembly last month. Its leaders say voters have the right to know the names of former KGB informants who might have spied on them. They have also cited national security considerations.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet officially spoke out against the draft law on so-called “lustration,” essentially predetermining its rejection by the pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament.
“There have been several such attempts in the history of independent Armenia,” Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian told a weekly cabinet meeting. “My being against this initiative is conditioned by several circumstances.”
“First, Armenia’s independence was legally based on the fact that the Republic of Armenia is a successor to the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic,” he said, arguing that Soviet rule was never considered foreign occupation by the current and previous governments in Yerevan.
Tovmasian said the bill also runs counter to Armenia’s post-Soviet constitution which bans retroactive enforcement of punitive laws. Restrictions on some citizens’ right to hold public office could also be deemed unconstitutional, he said.
Armenia’s first post-Communist government led by Levon Ter-Petrosian also opposed the kind of lustration laws that were adopted by several Eastern European states in the early 1990s.
Zharangutyun’s U.S.-born leader, Raffi Hovannisian, served as foreign minister in the Ter-Petrosian administration.