Karen Andreasian, Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, remained reluctant to clearly explain his unexpected resignation as he was formally relieved of his duties on Monday.
Andreasian announced his resignation on January 12, giving no reason for the move. Under Armenian law, he had ten days to reaffirm the resignation with a letter to the Armenian parliament. He did so on Monday.
“The reason for my resignation is a multi-layered one, and it is very difficult to describe it with one or several words,” Andreasian wrote on his Facebook page. “But the shortest and main [explanation] is as follows: if I had remained ombudsman in 2016 then this extremely important institution (the office of the ombudsman) would not have been as effective as it has become after many years of hard work.” He did not comment further.
Andreasian, who has reported many human rights abuses in Armenia throughout his five-year tenure, was publicly attacked by several pro-government parliamentarians in October when he presented the National Assembly with an annual report on the work of his office. The ombudsman denounced the harsh criticism as a smear campaign ordered by an unnamed government-linked individual.
Andreasian faced similar verbal attacks from Armen Ashotian, the education minister and a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), later in 2015. He dismissed them as baseless.
The HHK leadership has denied forcing Andreasian to resign. Armenian human rights activists and opposition politicians dismiss these assurances.
“This was definitely a forced resignation,” said one of those activists, Zhanna Aleksanian. “I am sure that it happened with [President] Serzh Sarkisian’s knowledge.”
Aleksanian praised the ombudsman’s track record, saying that this is why he was forced to quit. She speculated that the Armenian authorities might have specifically wanted to prevent Andreasian from drawing up a special report on serious irregularities reported during last month’s constitutional referendum.
Larisa Alaverdian, who served as Armenia’s first human rights defender from 2004-2006, likewise claimed that Andreasian quit under strong government pressure. “The government’s attitude to the office of the ombudsman hasn’t changed in the last 12 years,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
During her tenure Alaverdian had an increasingly tense rapport with then President Robert Kocharian, who resented her vocal advocacy of human rights. Alaverdian’s successor, Armen Harutiunian, similarly infuriated Kocharian with his criticism of a post-election government crackdown on the Armenian opposition launched in 2008.