Interview with Mr. Vrezh Gasparyan, Chief Adviser to the Speaker of the National Assembly of RA. What does he think about the Armenian legal mind and the development of legislative sphere? What are his preferences and hobbies outside the professional field?
Details are in the second interview in the scope of the “Prominent Armenian Lawyers” special project.
Prominent Armenian Lawyers” special project aims at presenting to the readers the Armenian lawyers who had exclusive contribution, irrespective of their place of residence. By the rules of the project the first three interlocutors choose the next heroes.
– Where were you born Mr. Gasparyan? What interesting memories do you have of your childhood?
– I was born in Yerevan. Our house was in Melik-Adamyan street, near the Republic Square, and I was one of the few “privileged” children, who had the “monopoly” to be present there (in the square) during the parades on holidays. In those days Yerevan yards had own local color, which unfortunately has almost disappeared in our days.
– Why were you named Vrezh (Vengeance)?
– In fact, I have two names. In our old yard I was known as Ashot.
– Why so?
– My mother used to say, if a person has two names, he is more protected from the evil, because when the evil come it takes one name with it and leave the other name. I believe it has a certain mystery in it. Often, foreigners ask me what my name means in translation, and when learn what it means they joke saying that they do not want to deal with me.
– It is interesting … Actually you name is simply incompatible with the law. In jurisprudence there is no concept of “vengeance” that is retribution. How did you choose the profession of lawyer?
– When a child I was fond of technology. I am fond of reading. I was subscribed in four libraries at the same time. I also was a subscriber to a number of scientific journals. I wanted to become a radio-engineer or cybernetics. However, what was the reason that being a radio-fan I chose the law. I was in my 10th grade at school. One day I and my classmates in the cafe drinking champagne, then we went out for a walk. Some of us entered the fountains in the Republic Square (then Lenin Square). The police approached us and speaking in a very rude and vulgar manner tried to take us to the police department “to conduct an explanatory work”. But this did not happen due to my eloquence анд explanation. At the end, when they were leaving, I said with a smile. “I will become a high-ranking official and be your chief.” The arrogant attitude of those police officers solidified my inner rebellion against injustice. And after military service, I decided to become a lawyer.
– Currently you are a really experienced lawyer and government official – Chief Adviser to the Speaker of the National Assembly of RA. What are your functions?
– My functions are mainly related to the implementation of the organizational powers and provision of legal advice of the President of the National Assembly. At the same time, in the scope of instructions of the NA President, coordinate the current activities of the staff, as well as performs certain tasks on the instruction of the NA President.
Mr. Gasparyan, what do you think about the development of the Armenian legal mind?
– Along with changes in social life, legal mind is developing as well. I always follow the legal literature and scientific publications in Armenia. My preferences include constitutional science, administrative law and international law. I would like to highlight the valuable scientific research and studies carried out by the Faculty of Law of YSU, as well as the consistent work carried out by the Constitutional Court aimed at the development of the constitutional science and other aspects related to the creation of the Armenian-language literature. A rich professional library has been formed, which is updated regularly. As a professional, I really appreciate and attach importance to the scientific works of Professor Doctor of Law Gagik Harutyunyan, the President of the RA Constitutional Court from the aspect of innovative approaches in constitutional science and actual fundamental solution. Frankly, I myself sometimes cannot avoid the temptation to write scientific articles.
– Constitutional amendments have been adopted. How will those influence upon the National Assembly? I mean the institutional and systematic changes.
– The political role of the National Assembly with the amended Constitution is enhanced. As for the institutional and systematic changes, they are already provided by the Constitutional changes. Competent specialists are currently carrying out active legislative design work aimed to detail the new constitutional imperatives. The results will be presented to the public and the National Assembly discussion in stipulated order.
– Sometimes it seems that the government is the main “character in the legislative process,” and the role of Parliament is limited. There was such impression from OSCE ODIHR 2014 report. The authors of the report noted that the government’s program usually includes 150-200 proposed laws in an annual basis, which inevitably cause great pressure on the proportion of legislative resources, both the government and parliament. How do you feel about these claims? Are there really such problems? If so, have they been solved in two years?
– Your question is really underlying from the legal and political point of view, and may refer to the process of realization of legislative initiatives in the parliaments of many states. Our reality is that most of the laws passed are the government initiatives. This is due to the Government’s constitutional functions and the program approved by the National Assembly, as well as professional human resources capacity of the executive. In addition, the government is the main “locomotive of our economy and social life.” However, this fact does not prevent MPs active law making and initiatives, as well as the detailed discussion of the drafts submitted to the National assembly by the Government. In any case, regardless of the author of the initiative, the laws are adopted by the National Assembly only. I should note that along with the number of legislative initiatives the quality of their regulatory content should not be ignored. By the way, as a result of recent changes to the Constitution, the NA factions of next parliament will have the right to legislative as well.
– Do the recent Constitutional amendments ensure the effective protection of citizens’ rights?
– Let me remember a story: an indignant citizen knock on the door and asked the official, “May I?” “Yes you may,”- the official answered. “Do I have right?” – asked the citizen introducing his problem. “Yes you do,” – the official said, “You have the right according to the law.” “And can I?” –asked the citizen. “No, it is not provide by the law,” the official answered.
In other words, there is a key legal issue, the norms that exists in terms of realization of human rights and guarantees provided by the laws and the Constitution shall be made more workable in legal term. We have adopted this approach in respect of all drafts under discussion in the National Assembly.
The new Constitutional legal regulations are stipulated by the progressive development of our society and taking into account the universal values: eliminating the old ones, correction of omissions and introducing the modern approaches. All this is aimed at the effective implementation and protection of human rights and freedoms and, why not, also ensuring prosperous life.
Being well aware of the progressive legal regulations of the Amended Constitution and the continuous improvement process of legislation I can say that the trends are positive.
On the other hand, we shall not measure the degree of progress or quality guarantees of our rights by the Constitution or the laws only. I think that it is important to emphasize the people’s upbringing, education and culture so that the laws have more effective application in our lives.
– Corruption remains a priority issue. How to fight it?
– Being against this destructive phenomenon is not enough. As a citizen, I see more dissatisfaction in life, not from corruption, but from protraction with other relevant bodies.
The fight against corruption in each country has its own model. To say that I have a specific prescription would be wrong. In our country, in the fight against corruption, as legal instruments, the necessary legislative and administrative measures are available, and I believe the political will as well. I can say one thing; the fight against this negative phenomenon must begin in the family and school. There should be a massive campaign indicating that corruption is not appropriate for us is destructive and backwards.
– You held quite high positions at the staffs of all the three presidents of our country. In 1996-2005 you were the Head of State Legal Department, at the Staff of the President of the Republic of Armenia. Please share your memories.
– For me to work with all of them was a great honor, very interesting and instructive. I remember such an episode, which relates to the period I worked with Serzh Sargsyan when he was still head of the President’s Administration; I was instructed to prepare a document. I prepared and presented three versions of the document. Serzh Sargsyan read the versions and chose the third option. When I walked out of his office, I wondered why just that option was selected. As the days passed, with regard to this document, there were some developments in our public life, and I understood that that the president was the most far-sighted and had made a very wise decision.
– By the way, when you were still in president’s staff your opponents tried to detract you in press, indicating that you were in litigation with a businessman.
– First the court process was on my brother’s initiative. The defendant had made me a target, perhaps being afraid of my reputation intending to hinder me to support my brother. Time and court decisions showed that my brother was right. The mentioned “opponents” were wrong, and publications in the press on the occasion were a direct order, unfounded insinuations.
– There are Chinese paintings on the walls of your office. Are you fond of this culture?
– I am really fond of it. In fact, I, together with his family, was lucky to be in China, and thoroughly гет acquainted with the country’s most beautiful ancient culture and traditions. Many of my friend are assessors of the Chinese couture. By the way I for a few years I have been a Board Member of the Confucius Institute at Yerevan State Linguistic University after V Bryson. I am greatly enthusiastic about the dynamic development of the Armenian-Chinese Relations
– Can you name books that have to change you and your mindset?
– Frankly, I am very fond of reading. Currently, in addition to the professional literature I often read fiction. In this connection, I can mention a lot of books. I shall mention Vladimir Levy, Dale Carnegie. I would like to mention the story “Tim urn and his squad” by the Russian writer Arkady Gaydar, and the film based on the book, which had the educational motive to help the elderly and needy. Generally, the need for such a goodness campaign, I believe our children have today as well.
– Do you have any musical preferences?
– The range of my musical preferences is too wide, from classical to folk, jazz and pop music. I have compiled a “golden” music database for myself: more than 500 works, which I provide to my friends.
– What do you like to do in your free time?
– Frankly, I do not have that much free time. If possible I like to spend free time in my summer house, get involved in agriculture. Sometimes I wandered the web, trying to follow world events. I do not do three things (smiling), I do not watch football, play backgammon and drive.
– Please briefly tell about your family.
– My wife, Laura Navasardyan, is also a lawyer by profession, and has many years of professional experience. My daughter, Anna is a 4th year student at the Faculty of Law. My son, David, is at the high school.
– Please tell an amusing and funny a case from your everyday work.
– One day I received a written opinion from an official.
– “ … There are a number of mstakes in the draft decision of the Government.”
Yes, yes, the word “mistake” was written just in that way, “mstake“.
– And finally, it is already traditional for the “Prominent Armenian Lawyers” special project when the interlocutor should choose the next heroes for the interview. In your opinion, who could be our next interlocutor?
– Arpine Hovhannisyan, I would suggest you to have an interview with the RA Minister of Justice.
Interview by Gevorg Tosunyan
Photos by Alexander Sargsyan
Author of the Idea Karen Zadoyan
“I Learn”. Alvina Gyulumyan
Below is Vrezh Gasparyan’s biography:
Vrezh Hovhannesi Gasparyan was born on 31 March 1962, in Yerevan. Citizen of the Republic of Armenia.
1969 – 1979 – Russian secondary school #12 after Kirov, Yerevan.
April 1980 – April 1982 – Service in the Armed Forces of the USSR, Reserve Officer of the RA Armed Forces.
August 1985 – July 1990 – Department of Law, Yerevan State University; jurist, lawyer.
1984 – 1987 – Department of Public Professions of Yerevan State University, Specialist of Art.
Participated in trainings in different prestigious international and foreign institutions (US, Ireland, China, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Russia, Armenia).
1979 – 1980 – Laboratory Officer, Yerevan Department of the Scientific Research Institute of Communication, after completion of the military service senior technician – 1982-1983.
1983 – 1985 – Lineman at the Specialized Mechanical Department N37 “Yerevanshin” Construction Company.
1990 – 1996 – First Class Consultant, Leading Consultant, Senior Consultant at Legislation Department of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia.
1995-1996 – Senior legal adviser at the Ministry of Finances of the Republic of Armenia.
1996 – 2005 Head of Legal Department at the President’s Staff then since 1998, Head of the State Legal Department of Office of the President of the Republic of Armenia.
2006 – 2009 – Deputy Head of RA National Assembly Legislative Analysis and Development Department.
2009 – 2011 – Legal Adviser to the Chief of Staff of the National Assembly of the RA.
9 December 2011 – 3 February 2012 – Adviser to the Speaker of the National Assembly of the RA.
3 February – 15 March 2012 – Chief Adviser to the Speaker of the National Assembly of the RA.
16 March – 18 September 2012 – Chief of Staff of the National Assembly of RA – Secretary General at the National Assembly.
18 September 2012 till present – Chief Adviser to the Speaker of the National Assembly of the RA.
By the Decrease of the RA President, Vrezh Gasparyan was awarded the State ranks:
– Second Class State Counselor of Justice of the Republic of Armenia (RA President’s Decree NH-604, 2000).
– Second Class State Counselor of Civil Service of the Republic of Armenia (RA President’s Decree NH-224-A, 2004).
Medal of ‘’Mkhitar Gosh’’ for significant services in the sphere of law (RA President’s Decree NH-379-A, 23 May, 2015)
Medal of ‘’Andranik Ozanyan’’ RA Ministry of Defense (Decree N31, of 22 January 2015 of theRA Minister of Defense).
“20 Years: Silver Medal’’ of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States (Decision of CPS IPA, 16 May, 2012).
Certificate of honor by the Speaker of the National Assembly of RA (Directive K-262-A, 28 December 2011, of the NA Speaker).
Author of 7 scientific articles.
Member of the RA Chamber of Advocates since September 2009.
Married, has two children, a daughter and a son.