A senior pro-government lawmaker praised on Monday the state human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian, for significantly toning down criticism of the Armenian authorities in his annual reports.
The most recent report detailing Harutiunian’s and his office’s activities in 2009 was presented to the National Assembly late last month. While reporting numerous abuses allegedly committed by various state bodies, it avoided accusing the authorities of systematically violating citizens’ rights.
Harutiunian’s previous reports were far more critical of the Armenian government’s human rights record. Rafik Petrosian, the chairman of the parliament committee on human rights and public affairs, described them as “slanderous.” He said the latest report is “more objective and constructive.”
“[Harutiunian] abandoned political evaluations and refrained from statements discrediting the state or state officials,” Petrosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “He analyzed the situation very objectively.”
Predictably, the report was criticized by the opposition minority in the parliament. “I believe that the human rights defender and his office were not consistent in 2009 in restoring violated rights,” said Larisa Alaverdian, the former Armenian ombudsman who is now a deputy from the opposition Zharangutyun party.
The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), which is not represented in the parliament, has slammed Harutiunian in stronger terms. The HAK leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, branded him as “one of the most ardent advocates” of President Serzh Sarkisian last week. Ter-Petrosian pointed to the ombudsman’s failure to describe his imprisoned loyalists as political prisoners and to press for their release.
The oppositionists were arrested following the February 2008 presidential election and a deadly unrest sparked by it. In the wake of the unrest, Harutiunian criticized the Armenian authorities’ harsh response to Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 post-election demonstrations.
But he subsequently endorsed the findings of an Armenian parliamentary inquiry into the worst street violence in the country’s history. The inquiry conducted by pro-government lawmakers concluded last year that the use of lethal force against opposition protesters was largely justified.