Human rights activists: None of ombudsman nominees meet candidacy criteria

The National Assembly’s standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs has received three nominations for the vacant position of the country’s ombudsman, including those of a deputy justice minister supported by the ruling party and an outspoken government critic backed by some minority parliamentarians.

Republican Party MP Hovhannes Sahakyan, who heads the committee, as earlier decided by the faction, proposed the candidacy of Deputy Justice Minister Arman Tatoyan.

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

Earlier, PAP faction leader Naira Zohrabyan said they had initial discussions with Urikhanyan that the candidacy of lawyer Makar Yeghiazaryan should be presented to the commission.

Already on Friday, February 12, the NA Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs will decide which candidate will be presented to the Parliament for discussion and vote.

Human rights activists generally are not satisfied with the nominees, since one of them is a government official and the other two have party affiliations.

Head of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor office Artur Sakunts thinks that although Tatoyan is a good professional, his candidacy does not meet the criteria for an independent ombudsman.

“Zaruhi Postanjyan’s only problem is her being a member of a political party, which is an inhibiting factor in terms of independence, but on the other hand, she is the most acknowledged in the field of human rights protection of the three candidates,” says Sakunts.

Human rights activist Zhanna Alexanyan thinks that the nomination of Deputy Justice Minister Tatoyan proves that the authorities need no independent ombudsman who would raise problems existing in different spheres.

Few doubt that Tatoyan is the most likely candidate to win the vote in parliament, which is dominated by RPA members and loyalists.

“The mere fact that the RPA nominates this candidate allows us to assume that he will become the next ombudsman, even if he is an official and cannot act [impartially] in that area,” says Alexanyan.

Chairman of the Armenian Helsinki Committee Avetik Ishkhanyan also thinks that Tatoyan has high chances of winning the vote.

The leading human rights activist says: “I’ve known him for a long time, we cooperated for a long time and I can describe him as a highly qualified professional in the field of law and the European Convention. But the problem is that he has not been a public figure and the public does not particularly know him. Now he has serious work ahead to become a public figure and time will show whether he can work or not.”