Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, on Friday defended his cautious reaction to deadly violence at a restaurant in Yerevan that has sparked a public outcry and led to the resignation of an influential pro-government parliamentarian.
Andreasian’s stance has prompted strong criticism from some participants of a series of street protests that followed last week’s death of military doctor Vahe Avetian, who was assaulted by security guards at the Harsnakar restaurant. They have also accused him of doing nothing to ensure an objective inquiry into the incident.
Andreasian dismissed the criticism as he answered questions from Facebook users at the RFE/RL studio in Yerevan. He said he strongly condemns the incident but has no legal authority to intervene in the inquiry conducted by the police. Armenian law requires the ombudsman to maintain “neutrality” in the scandal, he sad.
“I will advise all those populists, politicians and state officials who try to draw dividends from this investigation that they can’t establish the rule of law with illegal actions,” Andreasian added. “Nobody, including the human rights defender, has the right to guide the investigation.”
He at the same time said, “We all must now wait and make sure that the police do not resort to their infamous methods and mishandle the investigation.”
Six men are currently under arrest, accused of brutally beating Avetian and two other army medics at the restaurant compound on June 17. The chief suspect in the case reportedly worked as a personal bodyguard of Ruben Hayrapetian, Harsnakar’s government-linked owner.
Hayrapetian resigned as member of Armenia’s parliament on Tuesday amid mounting pressure from civic activists, opposition figures and media outlets that consider him at least indirectly responsible for the violence. The move did not placate his detractors. They are now demanding that the police investigators treat the tycoon as a suspect.