YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—One of Armenia’s most powerful security officials admitted on Thursday Armenian law-enforcement authorities have long lacked independence and carried out questionable government orders.
“This opinion of human rights activists is somewhat justified because the existence of an independent investigative body has long been deemed necessary in our society,” said Aghvan Hovsepian, the head of the recently formed Investigative Committee.
“All investigative bodies had the status of subordinate divisions [of police and other law-enforcement bodies.] Hence, natural concerns about the independence of investigators,” Hovsepian told reporters.
He claimed that the new law-enforcement body headed by him will be independent. “We will do everything to ensure that every investigator … is truly independent … The president of the republic is also seriously concerned with making this a reality,” he said.
Avetik Ishkhanian, a veteran campaigner leading the Armenian Helsinki Committee, was highly skeptical about Hovsepian’s assurances. “In reality, things will continue to be decided by political orders,” Ishkhanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Investigative Committee, modelled on an eponymous agency existing in Russia, was set up by the Armenian authorities earlier this year. It comprises the former police and Defense Ministry divisions tasked with conducting criminal inquiries.
Hovsepian was named by President Serzh Sarkisian to run the committee less than a year after resigning as Armenia’s prosecutor-general following 15 years in office. Throughout his long tenure Hovsepian was dogged by allegations of serious human rights violations voiced by opposition and civic groups.
As chief prosecutor, Hovsepian also played a key role in government crackdowns on the opposition, notably the suppression of 2008 post-election protests in Yerevan. Dozens of opposition members and supporters were jailed on highly controversial charges at the time.