By Ruzanna Stepanian
The Office Of Human Rights Defender said on Wednesday that it is able to investigate only a fraction of individual complaints against Armenian courts and law-enforcement agencies because of a serious lack of legal powers.
A semi-annual report released by Ombudsman Larisa Alaverdian’s office shows that the courts, the police and prosecutors’ offices are the most frequent source of human rights violations reported by Armenian citizens. Nearly 20 percent of some 1,450 complaints filed in the first half of this year dealt with them, says the report.
The independent state agency said many citizens alleged violations of the duce process and unfair rulings handed down by judges. It said it could only consider one out of 55 protests against the Prosecutor-General’s Office and six out of 95 complaints against courts because Armenian law prevents the ombudsman from intervening in criminal cases relating to human rights.
The ombudsman’s modest powers were curtailed last May when Armenia’s Constitutional Court agreed to a government demand to invalidate a legal provision giving Alaverdian the right to request any document from the courts and even make proposals to them. The government, which accused Alaverdian of meddling in judicial affairs, turned to the Constitutional Court after failing to push the measure through parliament.
Alaverdian faced another embarrassment shortly afterward when one of her employees was arrested on bribery charges. Immediately after the arrest the National Security Service (NSS) controversially raided the ombudsman’s office in Yerevan and confiscated its main computer that contained information on individuals filing human rights complaints. The information is meant to be strictly confidential under Armenian law.
Alaverdian publicly condemned the NSS actions at the time. She charged the authorities are seeking to tarnish her and her agency’s reputation in retaliation for its recent criticism of last year’s government crackdown on the Armenian opposition.