Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s physical security has been a concern, since day one of his coming to power. The memories of past political assassinations are still fresh in many people’s minds, notably the tragic events of October 27, 1999, when a group of terrorists stormed into Parliament and assassinated Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, National Assembly Speaker Karen Demirchyan, and a number of ministers and deputies.
After the six-week war in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), calls for physical retaliation against Prime Minister Pashinyan became frequent. Prominent political figures and party leaders have publicly spoken about his assassination, some even promising large sums of money. Arthur Vanetsyan, former director of the National Security Service, leader of the Homeland party, Vahram Baghdasaryan, a former member of the National Assembly, Ashot Avakyan, member of the ARF Dashnaktsutyun, Mihran Hakobyan, a former member of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) Garnik Isagulyan, chairman of the National Security party, Aram Haroutiunyan, chairman of the National Accord party, Sayat Shirinyan, a former high-ranking officer of the RA Police, and many others were suspected of either planing an assassination or publicly calling for it. In all these cases, law enforcement bodies did their part by arresting the individuals involved in calls for the violent takeover of power. However, in each and every case, the courts rejected the motions for detention, noting that it was disproportionate to what they were being accused of. How different judges can reach the same conclusion, even when the security of the head of state is at stake, is highly suspicious. The only conclusion is that these judges and the court system overall, continue to remain under the influence of the previous regime, which ruled the country with an iron fist for over 20 years. This phenomenon became more apparent when a judge immediately issued an arrest warrant for Vahan Badasyan, a former member of the Artsakh Parliament, who last week called for violence against the Prime Minister. Badasyan was in opposition during previous governments and evidently did not have the so-called “roof” of the old guards and the court treated him differently than the others accused of the same crime.
Vazgen Manukyan, the opposition’s candidate for prime minister, who has repeatedly called for violence, indicated during a recent visit to the Ararat region, that if the constitutional path does not work, a revolt should be staged. Of course, he was talking about an armed uprising. Manukyan’s speech is also under scrutiny by law enforcement, but it is unlikely that there will be any consequences and he will continue to operate freely and boldly, as long as the issue of independent courts has not yet been resolved.
Pashinyan’s government continues to adhere to its principled position of not interfering in the affairs of judges. On the other hand, the foundations of the state are being undermined and the efforts of law enforcement agencies are going in vain. The predicament of the judiciary must be resolved as soon as possible, primarily due to the last two years which have proven that the current judges are not willing or able to reform voluntarily. A step was taken in this regard when recently the Parliament voted in 1st reading, a law to add 17 new judges who will exclusively hear cases related to pre-trial detentions and arrest warrants.
Those calling for violence and making threats against Pashinyan were hiding behind the notion of defeat during the war. However, it is worth noting that the “October 27″ victims were the ones who realized the victory during the 1st Artsakh war. The suspects behind those tragic events are many of today’s opposition figures, whose ultimate goal is to return to power by any means necessary, especially since the street protest did not yield the expected outcome and the hopes for a victory in an election are not very high.
Recently, social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others suspended former US President Donald Trump’s accounts citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.” If the incumbent President of the United States can be restricted, surely the same can be done with those Armenian politicians who are preaching violence. The National Security Services of Armenia must take measures in this direction, as freedom of speech is not and cannot be absolute, anywhere in the world.
The only assurance for the future development and strengthen of Armenia is the rule of law and adherence to democratic principles and norms. Everyone must understand that calls and incitement to violence should have no place in our homeland.