Hyestart, which had alerted the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (Ganhri) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on the issue, welcomes the withdrawal by the Armenian government on 9 April of the draft law that had been presented by the Ministry of Finance on 11 March, which aimed to deprive the Ombudsman's Office of the means to work by removing Article 8. 5 of the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Armenia "On the Human Rights Defender", which stipulates that: "The amount of allocation for financing provided from the state budget to the Defender and his staff as well as to the Defender as the national preventive mechanism cannot be less than the amount provided in the year before".
Alain Navarra, President of Hyestart, declared:
"We welcome the withdrawal of the bill introduced by the Armenian cabinet on 11 March, whose constitutionality was not certain. This is a step in the right direction. However, we will continue to monitor the situation closely, in liaison with our international interlocutors, to see whether this is a definitive or merely tactical withdrawal. It is important to maintain the independence of the Office of the Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) and to provide it with the means to carry out its fundamental mandate of protecting human rights in Armenia. As we have already pointed out, the importance of its mandate has become even more important in the context ushered in by the tripartite ceasefire declaration of 10 November 2020”.
In the current context, it is indeed more important than ever to preserve the ability of the Ombudsman and other human rights organizations to raise awareness of the human rights violations committed during and above all as a result of the war initiated by Azerbaijan, whose aggressive and racist actions notably challenge the basic rights of the border residents and beyond. The Armenian authorities should on the contrary support the Ombudsman and other human rights and freedom of expression groups by maintaining active dialogue with them, upholding the rule of law, and holding the perpetrators of violence and hate speech to account.