The ruling Republican Party (HHK) all but predetermined on Friday the appointment of Arman Tatoyan, currently a deputy minister of justice, as Armenia’s new human rights ombudsman.
The position has been vacant since its previous holder, Karen Andreasian, unexpectedly stepped down on January 12. Under the Armenian constitution, Andreasian’s successor will be chosen by the parliament in which the HHK has a solid majority.
The HHK’s parliamentary faction nominated Tatoyan for the job after meeting with him behind the closed doors. His candidacy needs to be endorsed by the National Assembly’s standing committee on legal affairs before being debated on the parliament floor. The committee is headed by Hovannes Sahakian, a senior HHK member.
“I believe that I can work in an uninhibited way and stand with citizens in accordance with the ombudsman’s mission,” Tatoyan told reporters after meeting with HHK deputies.
Andreasian has still not given clear reasons for his resignation. The former human rights defender was publicly attacked by several HHK parliamentarians in October when he presented the National Assembly with an annual report on the work of his office. He denounced the harsh criticism as a smear campaign ordered by an unnamed government-linked individual.
Some Armenian newspapers have claimed that Andreasian quit under pressure from Mikael Minasian, Sarkisian’s influential son-in-law and Armenia’s ambassador to the Vatican.
Tatoyan insisted that he has no ties with Minasian. “I don’t know Mr. Minasian personally and have never had a chance to socialize with him,” he said.
The U.S. Embassy in Armenia praised Andreasian’s track record when it “noted with regret” his resignation on January 20. “He has been a tireless and effective champion for those who were defenseless; those who feared their voices might be silenced if they voiced unpopular messages; and any Armenian who fought for his or her rights as a citizen to be respected,” it said in a statement.
The HHK leadership has denied forcing Andreasian to resign.