The real functions of Ombudsman … in Armenia as well
Recognition of human rights is a question of political will. It is not enough just to endorse European and international norms: these standards must also be translated into a practical reality at all levels – national, regional and local. The efforts of Armenia towards the adoption of European values, principles and /or institutions, the capacity to implement EU rules and regulations or assist in approaching Western standards in general are of primary importance at this point.
Institution of Ombudsman is one of the important developments taken place in Europe: the idea that has spread rapidly, and the institution that has been set up in almost all countries, including Armenia.
The central point in Paris Principles and thereafter endorsed by the UN General Assembly as well as the Council of Europe is the independence of the body. Ideally, the ombudsman should stand above party politics and not take instructions from anyone. The person should be considered as a fully impartial figure, and should uphold this principle in every facet of their work. The independence is about the actual appointment of the human rights defender, the laws in place empowering the person to look into any issue falling within his/her competence without prior approval from the authorities, the status as well as the financial independence of the body.
In Armenia the appointment of the Ombudsman is made by the President, the fact hindering the very idea of the institution. Therefore the formation of the institute of ombudsman of Armenia is often interpreted to be a formal step in order to demonstrate the fulfillment of commitments to the Council of Europe. For real correspondence to the European standards, I believe, the appointment of the human rights defender, guarantees of his independence and existence as a parliamentary body should be precisely fixed in the Constitution.
However the underestimation and criticism will be much more effective, if it starts being constructive and aimed at improving rather than just stating and condemning the existing system.
In Armenia the body appears to be the interim organization maneuvering between the state interests and the society benefits. The official website provides an opportunity for informal discussion of problems and complaints outside the formal channels. In its annual report the institution explicitly addressed all the governmental bodies, highlighted problems and shortcoming, as well as positive developments in each of the institutions. However, I think, the problem is not in the improper investigations, but in the discretionary form to cope with the caveats. The perception of the society of this body remains biased and predisposed.
We can go on with exposing the major failings of the body, but when doing so, we keep ignoring the actual work it is carrying out to improve the condition in the ministries and government adjacent bodies and disregarding the revealed grounds where we can really make progress.