The ruling Republican Party (HHK) has nominated a 33-year-old lawyer and former television host for the vacant post of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, it was announced on Thursday.
Karen Andreasian’s candidacy was also promptly approved by the HHK’s junior coalition parties, making its parliamentary endorsement a forgone conclusion.
The previous ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian, stepped down earlier this month to serve as the representative of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Central Asia.
A lawyer by education, Andreasian owns a law firm and until recently hosted talk shows on a private TV channel. Little else is known about his professional activities and views.
Andreasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the HHK’s parliamentary leaders notified him this week that they want to him to become Harutiunian’s successor. “It was simply nominated at a meeting with the leader [of the HHK’s parliamentary faction] and several deputies,” he said. “My biography was discussed. I made it available.”
Armenia’s law on the ombudsman stipulates that the human rights defender should have sufficient experience in rights advocacy and “high moral authority.”
Both Andreasian and HHK deputies insisted that the nominee meets these criteria. One of them, Hovannes Sahakian, downplayed his lack of prominence. “Such evaluations are more subjective than objective,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“If, for example, Karen Andreasian was known to our public as a corrupt individual engaged in various machinations, would we say that he is very renowned?” reasoned Sahakian. He claimed at the same time that the incoming ombudsman enjoys “a lot of moral authority in the human rights field.”
Andreasian dismissed media speculation that he is a staunch government loyalist who is unlikely to criticize the Armenian authorities’ human rights record. “I have worked in local and international non-governmental organizations,” he said. “In recent years I have been in private business and still did human rights advocacy, albeit for money. I’ve never been a member or supporter of any party.”
Karen Andreasian also refused to specify whether he believes there are political prisoners in Armenia. “Before making a professional evaluation you have to look into a case,” he said. “If I were to make judgments on media reports, that would give rise to speculations and I wouldn’t respect my own opinion.”