Armenia's First Ombudswoman Presented Her Special Report

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PRESS RELEASE
The National Citizens' Initiative
75 Yerznkian Street
Yerevan 375033, Armenia
Tel.: (+374 - 10) 27.16.00, 27.00.03
Fax: (+374 - 10) 52.48.46
Email: info @ nci.am
Website: www.nci.am

March 16, 2006

Armenia's First Ombudswoman Presented Her Special Report

Yerevan -- The National Citizens' Initiative (NCI) today convened a roundtable on "Gains and Losses Experienced by the Citizens of Armenia in Year 2005."

The meeting brought together political and social activists, human rights advocates, analysts, experts, and media representatives.

NCI coordinator Hovsep Khurshudian welcomed the audience with opening remarks, "The authorities had declared the constitutional referendum of 2005 as a crucial step toward the establishment of democracy and legitimacy in Armenia. However, after the immediate 'passing' of the constitutional amendments, human and civil rights not only deteriorated, but repression including unlawful arrests against politically active citizens continued, followed by similar violations, this time, against political parties. A vivid illustration of this is the illegal closure of the Heritage Party's headquarters. Moreover, the first Ombudswoman of the Republic of Armenia Larisa Alaverdian was dismissed for performing her designated duty."

Prior to discussing her special report, Larisa Alaverdian expressed dismay that the public had lost the ability to read and comprehend written texts of political or legal nature. Subsequently, she briefly presented her 20-page special account on the situation of human rights in Armenia in the year past. Unfortunately, she was not allowed to present this report to the National Assembly. "I would like to call this report also 'An Infringement Upon the Right of Effective Legal Protection,' an entitlement set forth by Article 13 of the European Convention," Alaverdian noted. With respect to the large-scale encroachment upon the property rights of the residents of the Northern Avenue and Biuzand Street in downtown Yerevan, Mrs. Alaverdian observed that in democratic countries for the sake of state interests, private assets of people at times are alienated, but with proper compensation. Yet in this case, compensation was not only unforthcoming, but people through the courts were forced to sign purchase agreements and on top be subjected to state and income taxes. Larisa Alaverdian had made an appeal to President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Margarian concerning this matter. She had even addressed a formal letter to the President with respect to the widespread violation of human rights. Yet, she received a response in which she was charged of breaching Section 5 of Armenia's Constitution, that is for misusing her official power.

The next speaker, Heritage Party's political secretary Vardan Khachatrian gave his assessments of the constitutional referendum of 2005. According to him, "As a result of the ruling powers' methods of 'passing' the constitution and 'establishing' democracy, the notions of 'state,' 'constitution,' and 'democracy' have been discredited in the eyes of the majority of the people who draw a perfect parallel between the current authorities and the unlawfulness which is reigning in the country."

Khachatrian pointed that the way out of this situation is carrying out a fundamental transformation, but not ruling out the prospect for a peaceful revolution.

The remainder of the session was devoted to exchanges of views and policy recommendations among the public figures and policy specialists in attendance. Also noteworthy were interventions by Raphael Ghazarian and Vahan Shirkhanian from the Forum of Intellectuals of Armenia; MP Tatul Manaserian; MP and chairman of the Democratic Path Party Manuk Gasparian; MP and chairman of the Constitutional Right Union Hrant Khachatrian; MP and chairman of the National Democrats' Alliance Arshak Sadoyan; deputy chairman of the National Unity Party Gagik Tadevosian; chairman of the Democratic Motherland Party Petros Makeyan; "18+1" political union observers' mission chief Vahagn Khachatrian; Republic Party member Rafik Mkrtchian; deputy chairman of the National Rebirth Party Armen Mkrtchian; deputy-chairman of the Liberal Progressive Party Edward Antinian; director of the Heritage Party's main office Gevorg Kalenchian; chairman of the Social-Ecological Party Armen Dovlatian; deputy chairman of the "Victims of State Needs" NGO Sedrak Baghdasarian; members from National Democratic Union, Alliance, and Christian Democrat Union of Armenia parties; and many others.

In the ensuing discussion Academician Raphael Ghazarian charged the opposition leaders for pursuing their personal ambitions instead of in unity bringing the nation out of this situation.

In Dr. Tatul Manaserian's opinion the reasons for the current situation should be searched within ourselves since the public has become very apathetic as to the future of the country.

Member of Parliament Manuk Gasparian called upon the participants to work together in getting at least one or two independent television channels to reopen so that people can come out of the informational blockade and be informed of the illegalities of the ruling powers and what is happening in the country. Avetik Ishkhanian of the Helsinki Committee was in concurrence with Mr. Gasparian and added that the public's apathy was due to the suppression of freedom of speech and that our citizens' first real defeat came when A1+ and Noyan Tapan were closed down.

Deputy chairman of the National Unity Party Gagik Tadevosian's question as to the validity of the conclusion that the falsification of the constitutional amendments had resulted in more illegalities by the government was answered in the affirmative by Mrs. Alaverdian. She agreed that the ruling administration's declaration according to which 93 percent had said "Yes" to the new constitution was a disgrace and that the very same powers were very much aware of this fact.

In his turn, Avetik Ishkhanian stated that in line with confidential information ascertained from fairly high state echelons, with the exception of military servicemen, only 7 percent of the eligible voters had actually cast ballots in the constitutional referendum. Whereas Vardan Khachatrian added that they had received information on a mere 6.5 percent voter turnout.

In his closing remarks, NCI coordinator Hovsep Khurshudian noted the fact that Armenia's social elite underscores ideological discussions and the search for the roots and solutions for the problems facing the country. And in the words of Khurshudian, this roundtable is its proof.

The National Citizens' Initiative is a public non-profit association founded in December 2001 by Raffi K. Hovannisian, his colleagues, and fellow citizens with the purpose of realizing the rule of law and overall improvements in the state of the state, society, and public institutions.

The National Citizens' Initiative is guided by a Coordinating Council, which includes individual citizens and representatives of various public, scientific, and educational establishments. Five commissions on Law and State Administration, Socioeconomic Issues, Foreign Policy, Spiritual and Cultural Challenges, and the Youth constitute the vehicles for the Initiative's work and outreach.

For further information, please call (37410) 27-16-00 or 27-00-03; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email info@nci.am; or visit www.nci.am