A 35-year-old law-enforcement official close to President Serzh Sarkisian is poised to become Armenia’s new prosecutor-general.
The position has been vacant since the resignation earlier this month of its previous longtime holder, Aghvan Hovsepian. Under Armenian law, Hovsepian’s successor is to be nominated by Sarkisian and appointed by the parliament.
Sarkisian’s office announced on Thursday that the president has nominated Armenia’s chief military prosecutor, Gevorg Kostanian, for the job. The National Assembly, which is dominated by presidential loyalists, will discuss and vote on his candidacy next week.
Hovannes Sahakian, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), confirmed that the parliament majority will endorse Kostanian’s appointment. He said “people with a new mentality” like Kostanian are needed for the success of the Armenian authorities’ declared efforts to reform the law-enforcement system.
Kostanian is due to meet with the leaders of the parliamentary factions before next week’s vote. One of them, the opposition Zharangutyun party, made clear on Thursday that it will vote against him. “Kostanian is not the right person to be prosecutor-general,” Zaruhi Postanjian, a Zharangutyun deputy, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Kostanian was appointed chief military prosecutor in January 2011. He previously served as deputy minister of justice and a legal assistant to President Sarkisian.
Armenian human rights activists have remained highly critical of criminal investigations into chronic non-combat deaths of soldiers and other crimes committed in the armed forces during Kostanian’s tenure. In particular, they have accused military prosecutors of falsely portraying murders as suicides. Kostanian has denied such allegations.
Kostanian has also been under fire in recent months because of his handling of an investigation into a deadly shootout that occurred on June 1 outside the villa of Suren Khachatrian, a controversial provincial governor. One of Khachatrian’s sons and a bodyguard were arrested later in June for shooting and killing a businessman.
They both were freed and cleared of any wrongdoing earlier this month. Military investigators overseen by Kostanian said that the gunshots fired by them constituted legitimate self-defense, a claim strongly disputed by the victim’s family.
Ruben Sahakian, a prominent lawyer who has represented the interests of Khachatrian’s son, dismissed arguments that the high-profile probe is enough of a reason for Kostanian not to become prosecutor-general. He described Kostanian as an “incorruptible person.”