Police Misconduct Against Opposition MPs

Police Misconduct Against Opposition MPs



By Tigran Grigoryan and Karena Avedissian


Opposition deputy Ashot Simonyan was physically and verbally assaulted last week by riot police in an incident involving over a dozen officers who surrounded the politician. While one officer was fired, no criminal charges have been brought against him or any other officers involved in the assault.


Several Armenian civil society organizations have condemned the police violence.


In another incident on May 31, riot police verbally insulted opposition deputy Anna Mkrtchyan.


Legislators are generally granted parliamentary immunity to protect them from arrest or legal action related to their legislative duties. This ensures they can perform their roles without fear of retribution or undue influence from the executive branch or law enforcement. This is important for safeguarding freedom of speech and democratic processes. While these protections are not absolute and deputies should be accountable for actions outside their official duties, they are essential for the effective functioning of the legislative branch.


Unconstitutionality of Bagrat Galstanyan’s Bid for Prime Minister


Bagrat Galstanyan has been named as the opposition’s candidate for prime minister. This presents a significant problem as Armenia’s constitution forbids those who hold foreign citizenships to take the office. Even if Galstanyan renounces his Canadian citizenship, he still doesn’t fulfill the requirement of having been solely an Armenian citizen for the past four years. Opposition figures suggest overcoming this obstacle by implementing constitutional changes through the National Assembly. Arsen Babayan, a member of the Homeland Party and a participant in the protest movement, stated in an interview with Civilnet that, “the Constitution should be sidelined when the state’s salvation is at stake.”


The requirement for Armenia’s prime minister to have held only Armenian citizenship for the four years preceding an election is relatively strict by international standards, though not the most stringent. The 1995 Armenian Constitution, before the country transitioned to a parliamentary system, had even stricter requirements: the president must have held only Armenian citizenship for the preceding six years.


Constitutions should evolve over time to address changes in the political, economic, or social environment. Amendment procedures exist to adapt them to new circumstances without disrupting their legal continuity. However, if political leaders amend the constitution to suit their immediate needs, it promotes manipulation of legal frameworks for personal or partisan gain. Ad hoc amendments can erode public trust in the government and the legal system, leading people to regard the constitution as a tool for political convenience, rather than a safeguard of their rights and liberties. The constitution’s authority is derived from its stability and longevity.


Targeting Karabakh Mayors in Armenia


The exiled mayors of Stepanakert, Askeran, and Martakert in Nagorno-Karabakh were arrested and charged with fraud and forgery in Yerevan, following their support for protests against Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.


Armenia’s Investigative Committee alleges that Stepanakert mayor Davit Sargsyan registered municipal vehicles illegally in the names of friends and relatives, and Martakert mayor Misha Gyurjyan misappropriated a car. Both mayors were detained, while Hayk Shamiryan, the mayor of Askeran, was put under house arrest under similar charges. All three deny the allegations.


The apparent targeting of exiled Karabakh mayors in Armenia appears as a tactic to quell dissent among those unsettled by Armenia’s surrender of disputed border areas to Azerbaijan. By focusing on these mayors from Nagorno-Karabakh, the government likely hopes to dissuade further opposition to Pashinyan and support of Bagrat Galstanyan. The fraud and forgery charges have political implications, and raise concerns about the erosion of democratic principles and rule of law in Armenia.


The fact that the charges were made eight months after the entry of these individuals into Armenia and only after the opposition movement gained momentum further suggests political motivation behind the government’s actions.


Democracy Watch is a joint initiative by CivilNet and the Regional Center for Democracy and Security․