Armen Harutyunyan Ombudsman of the Republic of Armenia



– Mr. Harutyunyan is the legislation, which regulates the sphere of ombudsmen’s activities enough for efficient protection of RA citizens’ rights or not? Do you think that the list of the ombudsman’s authorities should be expanded?


– Considering the fact that the legislation reflects and regulates the existing situation, I may say that we have no obstacles in this aspect to realize our activities, when the law provides enough authorities. There are now problems from the aspect of European and democracy standards as well. Of course the life is dynamic, and from this aspect of relations there are new shades and new situations in the activities of the institute. In this respect any law, or system of laws, which refer to this or that sphere, should keep step with life and in some aspects may require some changes. From this point of view I do not exclude the legislation referring to the ombudsman as well. But if we formulate the question like whether the law includes provisions that hinder the efficiency of the ombudsman’s activities, I should say “No”. Currently we have no such hindering provisions or problems from the aspect of the RA legislation. Yet on the other hand any official may raise a lot of arguments for expansion of his authorities. I do not want to be subjective here.


– You are the Human Rights Defender of the RA for nearly a year, please innumerate the most essential achievements of the defender during this period.


– This is a rather difficult question, because we should decide the criteria to choose the most important achievement. Because a problem, which the ombudsman failed to solve, may also be an achievement, as despite the fact of the failure the ombudsman has publicized it and it gained the public importance, whereas it was not being publicized by the other institutes. We may consider as an achievement the fact that we were involved in a problem of one citizen and had success. I think there are no important and less important achievements in the issue of the protection of human rights. There is, and may be only one achievement that is whether we are able to solve the problems of the people, and the second is whether we are able to solve their problems without engaging in populism. Because the most dangerous and the most difficult thing for this position (ombudsman) is to stay aside from the populism that is from organizing artificial shows. The standard for us is the ability to restore the human rights. I think we have definite success referring to the cases on property right, social issues, as well as their relations with the prosecutor’s office, police, and courts. The most essential achievement here is that the state bodies have adopted definite cooperation procedures for the relations with the ombudsman. This maybe is the most remarkable achievement. They do not boycott, neglect, disregard or conflict, which may result in falling of the RA reputation. They simply have grasped that the human rights is not only a motto, but it refers to all of us. the most significant achievement is that all of them cooperate with us and we succeeded to solve a number of extremely important problem, in particular the issue of recognition of the property right of population of Kozern district, the problem of the Northern Avenue, and a number of issues referring to the Law on the Political Parties, which we raised in the Constitutional Court and win through recognizing some provisions of the laws as anti-constitutional. And also we succeeded in solving of the citizens problems during our everyday routine work.


– What is your opinion on the current state of the protection of human rights in the Republic of Armenia, and which are the problems in this respect that need urgent solution?


 – There are no urgent or non-urgent solutions. All problems are urgent and here we do not have dominating or non-dominating problems. With regard to the current state of the protection of human rights, I would say that Armenia is a typical post-soviet country and I think that we face a wrong point of view, when in some speeches we here that Armenia has undergone regress. In fact we have no need of serious reforms yet. There are intentions, the legislation and the work. But I think we still need time to ensure the quality. The current state of the protection of human rights in Armenia is not satisfactory yet. The people today are skeptical towards the state structures and much should be done to restore their trust. We have serious problems and work to do in the law enforcement, local self government, regional governmental bodies and ministries.


– Do you think that the current realization of justice in the Republic of Armenia form the aspect of the protection of human rights is effective?


 – It is difficult to evaluate generally, whether the justice is realized effectively or not. I think the reforms which are currently on the way in the sphere of justice, are called to promote the efficiency of justice from the legislative point of view, and in this respect I think the reforms further will have their positive impact. On the other hand we should provide real independence to the law enforcement bodies and especially to the judiciary system and then try to evaluate their activities. I hope the judiciary system will in fact become a branch of the third power and I am sure then it will operate efficiently. That is it will be more efficient if it has more independence. We also need a political will to make the judiciary system more independent. The Judiciary power should be independent from the executive and legislative structures, so that the political power could not direct or instruct it.  This independence is stipulated both with corresponding legislation, and with social issues. We should achieve the independence of the judiciary system through solving the complex issues. All this will result to the formation of a definite morality and shape this type of the human being. In this respect I think that maybe the current reforms are aimed at solving the problem of the independence of judiciary system. The future will show this.


– How do you see the cooperation between the Ombudsman and the Human Rights NGOs?


– I would like to refrain from evaluation with respect of NGOs, as I think it is to some extent incorrect when the Human Rights Defender evaluates the NGOs. I only may say that they operate rather efficiently and we cooperate with the NGOs. We are rather attentive towards the problems, which they raise. In some cases we cooperate with NGOs and involve them in the events we organize. Over thirty NGOs work with the Council at the Ombudsman. We meet, discuss and work jointly on regular basis. The Ombudsman views his activities with NGOs in two main directions: possibly joint cooperation and protection of their rights, so that their activities are not hindered. The NGOs are the most important integral part of the civil society, and it is senseless to speak about the civil society without them. For example there was the Draft Law on Lobbying, which tried to hinder the NGO activates and we were the first to oppose to this Draft Law.


– From your point of view can we consider that the institute of the Human Rights Defender in Armenia is established?


 – I think the institute of the Human Rights Defender is established already. On the other hand the institute of the Human Rights Defender cannot be established without establishment of the legal state. And thus, it is established to the possible extent in our country. The future depends on the choice, and if the country really chooses the way of democracy development then it will be established as a state and consequently the institute of the Human Rights Defender will be established as well. If the country chooses the authoritarian direction, this institute will be something artificial and in this case it will be not important who will be assigned to the post of ombudsman. The human factor will have importance to an extent where two more or less cases would be solved, but at the same time the Ombudsman will be artificial. Today we are in a middle stage, and this is our choice, no one hinders us to choose the direction for the development of our country. And the development of the other institutes: the judiciary, the Human Rights Defender’s or others will be based upon this choic


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