Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

NGOs Stop Their Membership in Police Reform Coordination Council

January 10, 2023

Announcements | Press Releases

After the Revolution in 2018, a process of radical and substantive reforms of the RA Police was expected. In 2020, the RA Government approved the reform strategy developed by the RA Ministry of Justice, which reflected the main issues of the system and the reasonable, feasible and value-based solutions to address them. In addition, the Police Reform Coordination Council headed by the Prime Minister was established in which, along with the law enforcement agencies, civil society organizations were involved including Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly- Vanadzor, Union of Informed Citizens NGO and Driver’s Friend NGO.

 

From the outset, concerns were raised by non-governmental organizations regarding the approach of segmental reform of the police instead of systemic changes, in particular, the introduction of the Patrol Service. Nevertheless, non-governmental organizations had a great participation and contribution to the creation of the new service. The main goal was to support the in-depth, real, institutional and value-based reforms of the law enforcement system, seeing a certain political will on the part of the authorities.

 

In the last two years, it became obvious that even the process of segmental reform was actively resisted by the police leadership that did not go through systemic reform (including Chief of RA Police Vahe Ghazaryan, Deputy Chief of Police Kamo Tsutsulyan), which was manifested in devaluing the reform process, subverting its course, disrupting the normal operation of the reformed units, distorting the implementation of the critical principle of equality of all before the law, patronizing personnel appointments and protecting corrupt interests.

 

The examples recorded by NGOs are many: attempts to fire the patrol officers who pulled over the cars of high-ranking officials, cases of awarding the rank of officers to acquaintances and relatives, attempts to make the schedule of the Patrol Service as inconvenient as possible, attempts to detach 20 traffic police officers to the Patrol Service without integrity checks and other examinations, cases of “re-purchasing” software donated by the international donor at the expense of the state budget, and even cases of deliberately delaying repairs of broken-down patrol cars for months.

 

However, the civil society organizations mentioned below decided to continue to support the process of establishing the Ministry of Interior and expected that a civilian minister would be appointed who would not be limited by networks and questionable traditions within the system, but would have the prerequisites of public trust through his integrity and obeying the law, and would carry the values of human rights and democracy.

 

On January 9, 2023, on the nomination of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Chief of Police Vahe Ghazaryan was appointed the Minister of Interior of the Republic of Armenia.

 

Instead of preventing the above-mentioned challenges that undermine the reform process, the political authorities with such appointments, in fact, not only encourage those who resist the reform process, but also eradicates the trust in the process of establishing the Ministry of Interior.

 

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, members of the Police Reform Coordination Council, believe that by appointing those who undermine the police reforms and those who violate the values of integrity, responsibility, obeying the law, human rights and democracy to such key positions, the path towards implementation of a real, in-depth and value-based reform of the police is completely blocked.

 

Moreover, we believe that these appointments will inevitably lead to flourishing of patronage and other manifestations of corruption in the system and the re-establishment of other traditions diametrically opposed to the values of reform.

 

Therefore, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly- Vanadzor, the Union of Informed Citizens NGO and the Driver’s Friend public organization stop their activities in the Police Reform Coordination Council and working groups, considering it pointless in the current situation.

 

Although the need for in-depth, institutional and real reforms of the police in Armenia is extremely great, we believe that in case of General Vahe Ghazaryan being the Minister of Interior, neither in-depth, nor institutional, nor real reforms will be possible.

 

At the same time, the NGOs will continue to observe the process of formation of the Ministry of Interior.

Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly – Vanadzor

Union of Informed Citizens

Driver’s Friend public organization

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