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Armenian Ombudsman Questions Police Force Against Mayoral Candidate


Armenian human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan

Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan on May 16 questioned the use of force by the country’s police against Zaruhi Postanjian, an opposition candidate running for mayor in elections over the weekend.

When Postanjian, a flamboyant member of the outgoing parliament and leader of the recently founded opposition Yerkir Tsirani party, entered the incumbent mayor's campaign office on election day, May 14, to expose alleged fraud, she and her daughter were forced off the premises by the police.

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) had called in the police. Postanjian and her daughter, Lilit Drampian, 22, were roughed up in the process. Drampian was hospitalized after the incident and diagnosed with a concussion.

“Postanjian is still a member of parliament and a candidate nominated for mayor in the elections. This is very important and should have been considered by the police in taking appropriate actions,” Tatoyan said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on May 16.

“In any situation, the police must show a respectful attitude towards citizens, which, after all, is an important factor in the formation of trust towards the police. As for this particular situation, we immediately drafted a report and sent it to the police for an internal investigation to be launched as soon as possible,” Tatoyan said.

Meanwhile, Postanjian issued a statement deploring the lack of response from appropriate law-enforcement bodies to the incident.

Earlier, the HHK said Postanjian’s entry to the campaign office was unwarranted and that its activists acted correctly by contacting the police.

Eduard Sharmazanov, an HHK spokesman and manager of the ruling party’s city election campaign, told RFE/RL that he personally instructed his staff not to let anyone enter the premises.

“[Postanjian’s] behavior was unlawful. For a whole hour the work of our campaign office in the district of Avan was disrupted because of the uncivilized, inappropriate, and abnormal conduct of Postanjian,” he said.

Sharmazanov also defended the actions of the police. “It was not the use of rude force. The law-enforcement agencies did what they should do. Moreover, they should have done it earlier,” he said.

The head of the Central Electoral Commission Tigran Mukuchian did not say that the Electoral Code bans citizens from entering campaign offices during an election, but he said the “presumption of reasonability” should be applied.

“In other words, if it is a place where someone works, and if someone else wants to enter it, while the person who legally owns the office does not want it, the person who wants to enter cannot do that,” he said.

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