Armenian parliament elects ruling party candidate Ombudsman
Anahit Manasyan elected Ombudsman
The Armenian parliament has elected Anahit Manasyan as the top human rights defender, with 69 deputies voting in favor. Voting took place on April 11, but the results were not announced. The parliamentary session was postponed due to the tense situation on the border with Azerbaijan.
The ruling faction Civil Contract is confident that their candidate for the post of Ombudsman will be able to use his “extensive work experience and high qualifications to protect human rights in Armenia.”
The opposition believes this appointment controversial, since Manasyan has been the Deputy Prosecutor General for the last five months. But during discussion of her candidacy in parliament, she herself stated that work in the prosecutor’s office does not contradict the protection of human rights. According to Manasyan, the main function of the prosecutor’s office is precisely the protection of human rights.
Human rights activist Artur Sakunts does not consider it appropriate to give estimates in advance of how effective the new Ombudsman will be. He says she is “more of a theorist, a specialist in constitutional law.”
Prior to her appointment as Deputy Prosecutor General, Anahit Manasyan worked as an adviser at the Constitutional Court, also holding other positions both in the Constitutional Court and in the Ministry of Justice. She is a candidate of legal sciences and associate professor.
“The Ombudsman is not an opposition or pro-government politician”
Manasyan said that she would perform her duties with impartiality and do everything possible to protect the ombudsman institution from politicization:
“I am ready and will strive to become a bridge on the path to achieving tolerance and solidarity in society, protecting the institution of a human rights defender from any political speculation. Naturally, I don’t consider exclusively critical statements as my main tool as a defense attorney, although this is also a very important tool.”
According to Manasyan, she will use the tools widely used in international practice to protect human rights and improve this system, including through education.
She noted that the priority should not be “finding the guilty and responsible”, but an honest look at problems and their solution through joint efforts in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation.
She identified as priority areas
- creating an atmosphere of social tolerance and solidarity,
- respect for the right to freedom of speech,
- guarantee of the independence of the judiciary
- overcoming polarization in society as a whole, and not just political sides.
According to the new Ombudsman, persecution of people on various grounds, incitement of hatred, and propaganda of violence are widespread in the country, and she believes it incumbent upon her to help overcome this.
An attempt to avoid direct answers to questions from the opposition
After Manasyan’s speech, the deputies asked questions about specific situations related to human rights. Manasyan did not say what she thinks concerning, in particular, deputies from the ruling majority and the opposition. She cited the need to know all the circumstances of the cases before expressing an opinion.
She also refused to assess the job of those who came before her in the role. According to Manasyan, there is “an institution that already exists, the foundations of which were laid by everyone.”
During the discussion, the deputies asked Manasyan “whether her friendship with the Prosecutor General of Armenia Anna Vardapetyan would fetter her.” She replied that she had friendly relations with many officials, but this did not prevent her from assessing their work.
Because the previous ombudsman resigned after one year, the deputies asked how long Manasyan was ready to stay in office.
“For me this is not a position, this is a mission, I undertake it with great responsibility. I undertake to make efforts, to do everything to bring this mission to the end and raise the sphere to the proper level, ”she replied.
The former Ombudsman of Armenia, Kristine Grigoryan, resigned on January 23, 2023, according to the official version, due to “transition to another job.” Several months have passed since then, but it is still not reported what job she switched to. The ruling power and at this meeting said nothing about the fate of the previous Ombudsman. Artur Hovhannisyan, secretary of the “Civil Contract” faction, only stated that “the public will be duly informed about this at the appropriate moment.”
Opposition candidate left without its support
The issue of nominating candidates for ombudsmen was discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the parliamentary commission on human rights on Apri 4l. The ruling team nominated Deputy Prosecutor General Anahit Manasyan, while the Hayastan and I Have The Honor opposition factions nominated Edgar Ghazaryan.
Edgar Ghazaryan has held various political positions since the 1990s, was the governor of the Vayots Dzor region, the Armenian ambassador to Poland, and the head of the apparatus of the Constitutional Court. In recent years he has been a harsh critic of the current government.
At a meeting a week ago where opposition candidate Edgar Ghazaryan spoke, only one opposition MP was present — the head of the human rights commission, Taguhi Tovmasyan.
The discussion in the commission grew bitter and ended in a scandal. At first, the opposition candidate called the country’s authorities a “criminal regime” and described the Velvet Revolution that took place in 2018 as “a victory for the Azerbaijani-Turkish group.”
This infuriated the secretary of the ruling faction so much that he threatened to “cut off the ears and tongues of all those who dare to call the people of Armenia an Azerbaijani-Turkish group.”
The second part of the meeting passed without incident. The opposition did not come to the meeting to ask Manasyan questions. The Commission on Human Rights, in which four out of seven members are representatives of the ruling faction, voted for Manasyan’s candidacy.
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Anahit Manasyan elected Ombudsman