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Armenian Government May Set Up Interior Ministry


Armenia -- The national police headquarters in Yerevan, February 4, 2020.

The Armenian government is considering creating a ministry of interior as part of a major structural reform of the national police service proposed by the Justice Ministry.

Armenia had an interior ministry until former President Robert Kocharian abolished it and turned the police into a separate structure subordinate to him nearly two decades ago. The police became accountable to the prime minister after Kocharian’s successor, Serzh Sarkisian, engineered the country’s transition to a parliamentary system of government.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian faced opposition calls to turn the police as well as the National Security Service (NSS) into ministries accountable to the parliament after he swept to power in May 2018. Pashinian and his allies have until now opposed such a change championed by the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK).

It emerged this week that the Justice Ministry recommended the re-establishment of the Interior Ministry headed by a full-fledged cabinet member in a three-year strategy of police reforms proposed to the Armenian government.

“From our perspective, what we have now is a police service meeting the requirements of the Soviet state order,” Deputy Justice Minister Kristine Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Wednesday.

Grigorian also stressed the importance of other structural changes proposed by her ministry. One of them envisages the creation of a new police unit tasked with road policing, crowd control and street patrol.

Grigorian said that the strategy posted on a government website is currently under discussion and may undergo changes. The police are also involved in the discussions, she said.

Armenian law currently requires the heads of the police and the NSS to be high-ranking career officers.Both security agencies have been headed by interim heads since September. Pashinian has yet to decide who will manage them on a permanent basis.

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