The 5th Human Rights Defender of Armenia Kristine Grigoryan took office on February 24, 2022. Her candidacy was suggested to the National Assembly for approval by the ruling Civil Contract Party. Former Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan was the only Armenian Ombudsman to serve until the end of his term.
The Human Rights Defender is elected by the National Assembly by at least three-fifths of the total number of votes of the MPs for a term of six years.
The Fact Investigation Platform tried to provide an overview of who the former ombudsmen were, when they resigned, why they did not hold office until the end of their term and what relations they had with the ruling power.
The first Ombudsman of Armenia was Larisa Alaverdyan. She was appointed to that position in 2004 by a presidential decree. Two years later, Alaverdyan resigned from the post. The reason was that according to the constitutional amendments adopted in 2005, the Human Rights Defender had to be elected by the parliament. However, Larisa Alaverdyan has spoken about political pressure several times since the she resigned, noting that she was told from “above” that she should resign, without ever specifying who said it. There is an opinion among the public that the real reason for Alaverdyan’s resignation was protection of the rights of the citizens deprived of their apartments on the North Avenue.
Alaverdyan was not even allowed to submit the second annual report. The then Speaker of the National Assembly Arthur Baghdasaryan stated in his reply to Alaverdyan that the report should be submitted by the new ombudsman.
Larisa Alaverdyan was succeeded by Doctor of Law Armen Harutyunyan. Harutyunyan held the post of Human Rights Defender for about 5 years, but he did not reach the end of his term either. During Armen Harutyunyan’s tenure, the notorious events of March 1, 2008 took place, after which Harutyunyan criticized the disproportionate actions of the authorities. Then President of the Armenia Robert Kocharyan responded during the press conference held on March 5, 2008, saying he considered Harutyunyan his “most ineffectual recruit”, who “does not understand the situation, does not understand what he is talking about.”
Armen Harutyunyan resigned in early 2011 as he was to take up the post of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Central Asia. Asked by reporters what the reason for his resignation was, Harutyunyan said: “Not that I do not want to be the Ombudsman of Armenia, but I do want to work in another position. It has nothing to do with wanting. It would be a pathology to refuse from taking up such a position, as the opportunity for such a position is given every hundred years.”
In March 2011, Karen Andreasyan, Candidate of Law, YSU Associate Professor, was elected Human Rights Defender. He was nominated for this position by the ruling coalition at the suggestion of the Republican Party. Karen Andreasyan resigned in January 2016, again before the end of his term, announcing it in a Facebook post. The resignation was preceded by Andreasyan’s scandalous report, where, among other issues, the Ombudsman presented the corruption schemes operating in the judiciary, mentioning the bribe prices in each court level. The report provoked strong criticism from the representatives of the ruling party, and during the final speech addressing Andreasyan’s report in the National Assembly, Republican Party MP Samvel Farmanyan called the report “sloppy and largely meaningless”.
“If I had remained the Ombudsman in 2016, this important institution would not have been as effective as it had become due to many years of hard work,” Andreasyan wrote in the text of his resignation, without giving a clear explanation of the reasons for his resignation. At that time, there were rumors in the press that the reason for Karen Andreasyan’s resignation was the tense personal relations between him and Serzh Sargsyan’s son-in-law, Armenian Ambassador to the Vatican Mikayel Minasyan.
And in an interview with Factor.am in 2019, Karen Andreasyan said։ “It was not a conflict. I did not have personal issues with either Mikayel Minasyan or anyone in the entire state apparatus. Since my 2013 report referring to the courts, there have been clear and very specific persecutions by various agencies, and I can say that Mikayel Minasyan was just one of the tools. At the time when the senior leadership of the country decided to destroy, persecute someone, one tool could be the National Security Service, another one the Police, also the court and the media. As the media tool was managed by Mikayel Minasyan representing the ruling power, there was an impression that it was a conflict between me and him.”
Thus, only the fourth Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan held office until the end of his term. He was elected to this position in February 2016. Arman Tatoyan held office until the end of his term, but the relations between him and the political power were not smooth either.
In particular, the discussion of the 2019 report of the Human Rights Defender in the National Assembly took place in a tense atmosphere. The pro-government MPs mentioned in their speeches that the Ombudsman did not respond properly to the calls for violence against the representatives of the ruling power.
In particular, My Step faction MP Vagharshak Hakobyan said: “I see double standards in your activities. How come you express your attitude towards the text voiced by our colleague from this hall with lightning speed, but you do not give an in-depth assessment of the situation? Was the other side sitting and eating bread and onions, and our partner just came and said insulting words? I urge you to be prudent, impartial and to describe the situation in more depth.”
In response, Arman Tatoyan urged not to threaten him․ “Don’t you dare raise your voice against me next time. Don’t you dare talk to the Human Rights Defender of Armenia from a position of power, and don’t you dare threaten the Human Rights Defender of Armenia next time. There are all the mechanisms of legal responsibility. Moreover, you do not even know that the Human Rights Defender does not work based on the Charter. I have nothing to discuss with you.
The representatives of the government formed as a result of the 2018 Velvet Revolution have spoken several times during these years about the political motives of the Ombudsman’s activity. In his turn, Tatoyan spoke about the actions against the institution of the Human Rights Defender, in particular, the incomplete coverage of his activities on Public Television.Իր
And in one of the interviews to RFE/RL”Azatutyun” radio station, he also spoke about the threats directed at him, without specifying from whom he receives the threats․ “For example, I receive threats every day, I receive them every day, but I do not say that. It is a matter of human approach. I cannot say every day that I am threatened, beaten and then go to defend human rights. How should I defend human rights then?”
On January 24, 2022, the National Assembly elected Kristine Grigoryan (nominated by the Civil Contract faction) a Human Rights Defender, who, like Arman Tatoyan, previously held the position of Deputy Minister of Justice. Grigoryan is the fifth ombudsman of Armenia and the second woman in this position.