Defending the Defender: Postanjyan says her oppositional past no hindrance to Ombudsperson position

Zaruhi Postanjyan, the Heritage faction representative says her professional background and experience make her well suited to serve as Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsperson). If named to the post, she must give up her affiliation with the political party.

“I’ve been a lawyer for nine years and have been a decision maker, not a mere performer. I have assumed the authority to protect people’s rights. As for Arman Tatoyan’s activities in the ombudsman’s office, I do not know anything. Maybe he was [just] a performer, because I do not know about his human rights activities.

“I have never heard him express an opinion on the human rights of persons convicted for their political views,” Postanjyan told media on Wednesday.

Deputy Justice Minister Tatoyan has been nominated to the post by Hovhannes Sahakyan representing the ruling Republican Party in the National Assembly.

MP Edmon Marukyan, who is formally not affiliated with any faction, and Orinats Yerkir faction member Hovhannes Margaryan proposed the candidacy of Postanjyan, while former press secretary of the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) Tigran Urikhanyan nominated Narek Aloyan, the chairman of the legal affairs commission of the Alliance party that was recently set up by Urikhanyan.

Postanjyan, referring to regular attempts of suppressing the Ombudsman, said that it is natural that there will be more such pressure in the future. “As any democratic institution in Armenia, it is still on the way of establishment. We understand that we live under an authoritarian regime, and we cannot say that the institution has fully been formed. In spite of possible pressures the Ombudsperson should not be inhibited. Just on the contrary, he or she should continue their mission,” she said.

Critics of Postanjyan say her outspoken and active role as a member of a political party with opposition views make her a poor choice for Ombudsperson. Postanjyan says, however, that the job is not about having oppositional views, but is a matter of protecting people’s rights.

The ombudsman’s position has been vacant since its previous holder, Karen Andreasyan, unexpectedly resigned in January. Andreasyan did not give clear reasons for his step, leading some opposition groups to suggest that he may have come under government pressure.