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Outgoing Ombudsman ‘Won’t Join Any Party’


Armenia -- Outgoing human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan holds a farewell press conference in Yerevan, February 23, 2022.

Armenia’s outgoing human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, insisted on Wednesday that he has no plans to join any political group after leaving office.

Tatoyan met with the press one day before completing his six-year tenure. He will be replaced on Thursday by former Deputy Justice Minister Kristine Grigorian.

Grigorian, 40, was nominated for the post by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party and elected by the Armenian parliament last month. Opposition lawmakers rejected her candidacy.

For their part, Civil Contract deputies hit out at Tatoyan, who has been increasingly critical of the Armenian government.

In particular, Tatoyan has denounced Armenian troop withdrawals ordered by Pashinian following the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh and accused the authorities of undermining judicial independence and bullying opposition groups that defeated the ruling party in local elections.

He also criticized Pashinian’s pledges to wage “political vendettas” against defiant local government officials made during campaigning for last June’s snap parliamentary elections.

The secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigorian, responded late last year by accusing Tatoyan of engaging in “counterrevolutionary” activities in support of opposition forces.

Armenia - Human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan talks to Armenian soldiers deployed in Syunik province, May 14, 2021. (Photo by the Armenian Human Rights Defender's Office)
Armenia - Human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan talks to Armenian soldiers deployed in Syunik province, May 14, 2021. (Photo by the Armenian Human Rights Defender's Office)

“I have received no offers from any political force [of late,]” Tatoyan told the farewell news conference. “In case of receiving them, I am not going to join any political force.”

He added that some parties did approach him in the run-up to the 2021 elections but that he rebuffed them “very sharply.” He did not name them.

A U.S.-funded opinion poll conducted late last year found that of all state bodies in Armenia, Tatoyan’s office enjoyed the highest approval rating. According to some media outlets, the 40-year-old ombudsman was courted by at least one opposition party in recent months.

Tatoyan said that he will not retire from public life and will remain engaged in human rights advocacy. He said he will be particularly active in supporting residents of Armenian border towns and villages facing what he sees as grave security threats from Azerbaijan.

The U.S.-educated lawyer has frequently denounced those threats over the past years. He has also been critical of the Armenian authorities’ responses to cross-border Azerbaijani incursions and broader handling of border security.

Tatoyan questioned on Wednesday Pashinian’s regular assertions that the planned opening of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier to commerce will usher in an “era of peaceful development” in the region. “Peace is a supreme value but it cannot come about at the expense of only one party,” he said.

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