Human Rights Day: Former Ombudswoman sees little to celebrate in Armenia

Thursday was International Human Rights Day, and a day on which Armenia’s first ombudswoman told media that Armenia is backsliding.

The Law of the Republic of Armenia on Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) was adopted on October 21, 2003, and on February 19, 2004, by the decree of the president of Armenia, Larisa Alaverdyan was appointed Ombudswoman of Armenia. She served until February 2006, after which Armen Harutyunyan began his post, appointed by Parliament.

Alaverdyan says that Armenia’s human rights record continues to be stained by the residual impact of March 1, 2008 in that “political prisoners” remain imprisoned relevant to that day’s bloody events.

At a press conference in Yerevan, Alaverdyan (current MP representing the Heritage Party) named five spheres of human rights violations in Armenia: property rights, instability in police and legal system, social economic rights and suffrage and freedom of speech.

Armenia’s first public defender says employees of state bodies are to blame for Armenia’s continual lack of progress in how its citizens are treated by authorities.

She brought a recent example from the floor of the National Assembly: “When I was submitting a recurrent violation of human rights (the poor state of the dormitory roof in Arabkir community, in Yerevan, where currently refugees, including 20 disabled are housed), the NA Speaker said that I should turn to him with this issue in a written form,” Alaverdyan recalls. “I replied that I wanted to raise that issue immediately, and I was told that I could not do that, and I told him ‘isn’t it nice that all of us have a roof above our heads’, and Mr. Abrahamyan (NA Speaker Hovik Abrahamyan) got insulted.”

Alaverdyan nonetheless is hopeful that the institute of human rights in Armenia may still be established and improved. It is on the right path to equality, she says, when oppositionists accuse current Ombudsman Harutyunayan of being pro-government, while and the authorities call him pro-opposition.