President Serzh Sarkisian lashed out at Armenian state prosecutors on Monday, saying that they routinely cover up crimes, fabricate accusations against innocent people and commit other serious abuses.
Sarkisian subjected the influential Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian and his subordinates to unusually harsh criticism at a meeting that discussed the conduct of criminal investigations in Armenia.
“Instead of solving cases, officials conducting investigations not only change facts by means of falsifications but also sponsor criminals and cover up crimes,” he charged. “Furthermore, in some cases they blame crimes on other persons. I just can’t imagine a more mean and immoral deed by a law-enforcement official.”
Sarkisian based this conclusion on an “analysis” that was conducted by his staff and discussed at the meeting. According to the presidential press office, Sarkisian aides believe that Armenian prosecutors often do not investigate grave crimes in a “thorough, comprehensive and objective” manner. Because of that, “individuals who have committed crimes are not subjected to criminal liability and clearly innocent persons are charged instead.” Prosecutors responsible for such abuses “remain unpunished,” the office said in a statement.
The presidential inquiry apparently contained concrete examples of the alleged mishandling of criminal cases. They were not made public, though.
“Can anybody explain to me just how such an atmosphere can exist in a law-enforcement body?” raged Sarkisian. “That means that some people have become impudent.”
The criticism is a massive blow to Hovsepian, who has been one of Armenia’s most powerful security officials since the late 1990s. He built considerable political clout after being appointed as prosecutor-general in 2004 by then President Robert Kocharian.
Hovsepian, 59, has also played a key role in highly controversial cases opened against Armenian opposition members over the past decade. In particular, he oversaw the arrest and prosecution of more than 100 opposition activists and supporters in the wake of the disputed February 2008 presidential election.
In addition, Hovsepian has long been accused by opposition politicians and pro-opposition media of having extensive business interests. But he has denied owning businesses or being otherwise connected to them.
Despite the blistering attack, which some Armenian commentators will attribute to political considerations, Sarkisian did not rush to dismiss the chief prosecutor or any of his deputies. According to the presidential statement, he only issued them with “instructions to rectify the situation.” “Based on the results of the first quarter of 2012, we will again address the quality of investigations and concrete facts,” Sarkisian was quoted as saying.