A collection of international agencies and non-governmental organizations met
with Parliament this week to discuss Armenia's draft law on Protection of Human
Representatives of Parliament heard from the
Human Rights Office of the Council of Europe,
the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE), International Union of Lawyers,
Yerevan Press Club, Armenian Union of Journalists
A statement presented by the Helsinki Committee
of Armenia said the proposed law's suggestion to establish an Institute of Human
Rights Protection (an ombudsman) is out of place, considering the Constitution.
into account the fact that the acting Constitution and legislation limit the order,
nature and structure of creation of the Institute of Human Rights and limit possibilities
of making it correspond to the internationally accepted standards of independence,
we consider that establishing the Institute of Human Rights Protection in Armenia
is anachronistic," the statement said.
The chairman of the Helsinki
Committee of Armenia Avetik Ishkhanyan says the Institute will turn into something
like a presidential committee on human rights because constitutional improvements
haven't been adopted yet and the president of the republic still has a right to
appoint an ombudsman.
"It seems to me that Armenian authorities
are in a hurry to achieve several obligations
(to the Council of Europe) and they don't care
how they are going to do that as they want to
demonstrate how loyal they are in the question
of meeting their obligations," says Ishkhanyan.
The ombudsman would be the person to whom citizens
could appeal if they felt their rights had been
Coauthor of the draft law, Vice Speaker of the National
Assembly Tigran Torosyan says that constitutional improvements will have been
adopted within a year and this question will have been resolved.
Constitution stipulates that the president would appoint an ombudsman. Proposed
changes would yield that power to parliament.)
Council of Europe General
Secretary's Special Representative in Armenia Natalia Vutova rejected the idea
of postponing the law on human rights protection. (The human rights agencies'
statement had suggested that the issue be postponed.)
"This is an
obligation that Armenia has undertaken towards the Council of Europe and we cannot
wait for constitutional improvements which can either be adopted or not,"
However the Special Representative emphasized the importance
of having an independent ombudsman.
"Ombudsmen must be appointed in
compliance with the standards of Council of Europe, OSCE and UN. There must be
temporary solutions until the Constitution is improved so that this Institute
could start functioning and at the same time being independent and trusted as
much as possible for the citizens," said Vutova.
The draft Law on Human Rights Protection has
passed through analyses of the Venice Commission
(a special commission within the Council of Europe)
and before the second National Assembly reading
the draft had been substantially improved by additional
development. Representatives of OSCE and Council
of Europe agree with Tigran Torosyan's appraisal.
draft was adopted during first reading of the last session of Parliament, following
presidential elections. The draft proposes that Parliament must select an ombudsman
by three-fifths vote.
Further, the draft gives the ombudsman power to bring
a case for hearing at his own initiative.
The current Constitution calls
for the ombudsman to report directly to the president. The draft says the person
in that position would also report to the National Assembly and to ngos.
Speaker Torosyan doesn't exclude the possibility of appointing a representative
from any political force to that position.
"If that person enjoys great
popularity of the society and if he is even a member of any political party then
he will leave his party and will be loyal to the principles presented by law,"
The Vice Speaker says he has no doubt that the draft law
will be adopted in next week's Assembly session.