Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan has questioned the use of force by the country’s police against Zaruhi Postanjian, an opposition candidate running for mayor in last Sunday’s elections, who entered a campaign office of the ruling party on the voting day to expose alleged fraud.
Postanjian, a flamboyant member of the outgoing parliament and leader of the recently founded opposition Yerkir Tsirani party, and her daughter Lilit Drampian were forced out of the premises used by incumbent Mayor Taron Markarian’s campaign after activists of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) called in the police.
Postanjian and Drampian were roughed up in the process. The 22-year-old daughter of the candidate was hospitalized after the incident and diagnosed with a concussion.
“Postanjian is still a member of parliament and a candidate nominated for mayor in the elections. This is very important and should have been considered by the police in taking appropriate actions,” Tatoyan said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Tuesday, also referring to an attempt by police officers to detain Postanjian.
“In any situation the police must show a respectful attitude towards citizens, which, after all, is an important factor in the formation of trust towards the police. As for this particular situation, we immediately drafted a report and sent it to the police for an internal investigation to be launched as soon as possible,” Tatoyan added.
The ombudsman stressed that his office did contact the police on this account and said that such an investigation is currently underway.
Meanwhile, Postanjian herself issued a statement on Monday, deploring the lack of response from appropriate law-enforcement bodies to the incident.
Earlier, the HHK said Postanjian’s entry to the campaign office was unwarranted and that its activists acted correctly by contacting the police. Eduard Sharmazanov, an HHK spokesman and manager of the ruling party’s city election campaign, even told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that he personally instructed his staff not to let anyone enter the premises.
“[Postanjian’s] behavior was unlawful. For a whole hour the work of our campaign office in the district of Avan was disrupted because of the uncivilized, inappropriate and abnormal conduct of Postanjian,” he said.
Sharmazanov also defended the actions of the police. “It was not the use of rude force. The law-enforcement agencies did what they should do. Moreover, they should have done it earlier,” he said.
Head of the Central Electoral Commission Tigran Mukuchian did not say that the Electoral Code bans citizens from entering campaign offices of political parties, but he insisted on Monday that the “presumption of reasonability” should be applied. “In other words, if it is a territory where someone works, and if someone else wants to enter it, while the person who legally owns the territory does not want it, the person who wants to enter cannot do that,” he explained.