Their representatives pulled out of a government body coordinating those reforms hours after President Vahagn Khachaturian formalized Ghazarian’s appointment on Monday.
The 48-year-old police general was named to run the newly re-established Interior Ministry that will comprise the national police, rescue and immigration services.
“We believe that this appointment will inevitably lead to new flourishing of patronage and other forms of corruption in the [law-enforcement] system,” read a joint statement released by the Union of Informed Citizens (UIC), the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and another NGO called the Friend of the Driver.
“The reform will become decorative,” the UIC’s Daniel Ioannisian claimed on Tuesday. “Our participation in decorative reform would only legitimize it.”
“We hoped that … after the Interior Ministry is set up soon in-depth, substantive reforms will start gaining momentum,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “But this appointment made it clear to us that the opposite is going to happen.”
Pashinian and Ghazarian did not immediately react to the criticism. The prime minister has repeatedly claimed that his administration is seriously reforming the Armenian police and other law-enforcement bodies. In particular, he has touted the creation of the Patrol Service, a Western-funded police force tasked with road policing, street patrol and crowd control.
Like Pashinian, Ghazarian was born and raised in the northern town of Ijevan. Multiple Armenian media outlets have for years described the two men as childhood friends.
“We thought that the prime minister will not appoint his classmate [as interior minister,]” said Ioannisian.
Ghazarian was the police chief of another small town, Dilijan, when Pashinian swept to power during the 2018 “velvet revolution.” He was repeatedly promoted in the following years, becoming the chief of the Armenian police in 2020.