Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan issued a statement Friday defending himself against a barrage of comments made by ruling party lawmakers and other government officials.
Tatoyan said that several members of the ruling Civil Contract lawmakers, in public statements and interviews, have suggested that Tatoyan is still at his job because of their “patience” with him. Whereas, since last year’s war Tatoyan has been on the ground meeting with residents, especially in the border regions, and reporting on threats to the rights of Armenia’s citizens in the wake of continued Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia.
Earlier this fall, Tatoyan accused Armenia’s Defense Ministry of leading a smear campaign against him and his office after the Human Rights Defender showed evidence that Azerbaijani forces were fortifying their positions in the Gegharkunik Province where they have been camped out since breaching Armenia’s sovereign borders in May.
The position of Human Rights Defender—or Ombudsman as the person is known—is in line with European Union standards and Armenia is a member of the European organization of human rights defenders recognized by various bodies, including the United States. Azerbaijan does not enjoy the same level of recognition.
Tatoyan’s term in office ends in February. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract Party has signaled that it will nominate a party member, Kristinne Grigoryan to replace Tatoyan. The post of the Human Rights Defender is usually filled with a person not affiliated with any political party. But true to form, a party hack will be nominated for the post, whose nomination must be approved by parliament.
Grigoryan, who is not an attorney, served as Armenia’s deputy justice minister, before being elected to parliament.
“To date, my stay in office as Human Rights Defender of Armenia, has been due to my persistence and loyalty to my oath, and it is not because of the goodwill of any person or political force,” Tatoyan said in a statement issue on Friday.
He said he was compelled to respond to the claims made by ruling party lawmakers, who he said, boast about never having evaluated the activities of the Human Rights Defender, calling such remarks and claims “inaccurate.”
“During my term in office as Human Rights Defender, especially after the war, there have been various forms of pressure, which are prohibited by law, starting with demands presented by several high-ranking officials to stop or essentially minimize the activities [of the Human Rights Defender’s Office] due to the post-war situation and ending with the seizure of Human Rights Defender’s Office employees vehicles by a government decision in order to reduce our capabilities,” explained Tatoyan.
He cited other examples of attempts to impeded his and his office’s work, including efforts to make the Human Rights Defender’s Office depended on government funding, as well as smear campaign against his person by high-ranking government officials and lawmakers.
Pashinyan-affiliated lawmakers attempted to cut funding for Tatoyan’s office.
“Regardless of the difficulties and obstacles, I have never presented and will not present myself as a victim and have only done my job as a human rights activist, guided by non-political and unbiased principles,” Tatoyan said.