A parliamentary body looking into possible violations of ethnical norms of conduct by lawmakers has refused to consider a claim filed against a pro-government member by a leading human rights activist.
Last month, member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia’s (HHK) parliamentary faction Shushan Petrosian, who is also a popular singer and artist, allegedly used insulting language in her Facebook post reacting to an opinion about the state of affairs in the Armenian army expressed by one of the users.
The 48-year-old singer-turned-politician’s comments caused an uproar among civil society members, with head of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor-based Office Artur Sakunts seeking disciplinary action against the HHK lawmaker.
Petrosian’s fellow HHK faction member Khosrov Harutiunian, who heads the parliamentary ethics committee, said on Monday that the application would not be heard because it lacked grounds for it.
He said that an expression like “hey, brat, I’ll tear your eyes off” cannot be regarded as a violation of ethics.
“When I was a youngster I quite often heard a similar expression from people older than me. But it didn’t mean that those who threatened to cut my ears off would actually do that. That way they simply rebuked me and tried to keep me from taking one step or another,” he explained.
“If the Facebook user, Gayane Shahinian, feels insulted or thinks that she was insulted, then the ethics committee cannot, within the scope of its powers, qualify this or that episode as an insult… We have no right to do that. It’s up to the court to decide whether it is an insult or not. And, therefore, Gayane Shahinian can turn to the court. It’s up to her.”
Sakunts, who pursued the case, lamented the decision, saying that to him it was equal to allowing any citizen to use the same words in respect of lawmakers.
Another senior HHK lawmaker was in the news earlier this month for insulting a journalist in parliament. Ruling party representatives insisted, however, that Mher Sedrakian’s apparently foul language did not amount to insult, dismissing video evidence to the contrary.
Journalists and civil society members last week staged a picket in front of the National Assembly building demanding that the ethics committee take disciplinary action against the parliamentarian.