Police officers created a barricade in front of the Presidential Palace today, March 4th, in order to restrict access to the sidewalk for the parents of soldiers killed during peacetime. Meanwhile, other citizens were allowed to cross the sidewalk. The officers justified their actions saying that the parents would stand in front of the Presidential gates and protest.
“There have been other occasions when they said they were going to the reception and letters department, but stood in front of the Presidential Palace, which is not allowed because the Palace is a specially protecting landmark,” said officer Madatyan.
A group of human rights defenders from the RA Ombudsman’s office arrived at site after a phone call from Gohar Sargsyan, mother of Tigran Ohanjanyan who died in the Army. Sargsyan told them that in this case the police’s concerns were entirely ungrounded. “We have no placards in our hands, no photos. We are going to the reception department in order to demand the response to our letter we sent to the President four months ago,” said Mrs. Sargsyan. In the letter, the parents demanded that Serzh Sargsyan met with them and resolved justly the criminal cases launched into the soldiers' deaths.
Raphael Poghosyan, the head of the quick-response division of the Ombudsman's Office, negotiated with the police to open the way. The police, however, refused, while Poghosyan explained to the parents that the Ombudsman’s office could not force the police to do anything.
“Turns out, the Ombudsman’s office is a formality. Even the Human Rights Defender's rights are being violated,” said dead soldier Valery Muradyan’s mother, Nana Muradyan.
Gohar Sargsyan also informed the staff members of the Ombudsman's office that the police used force against her and the other parents and that after an internal investigation two police officers were reprimanded for violating ethical norms. According to Sargsyan, the latter was a formal decision because there were at the least two police officers who subjected each of the protesters to force.
The members of the Ombudsman’s staff assured them that they were dealing with that issue and have received a certain response, however, that was not sufficient for them and they have directed new inquiries to the police. However, Poghosyan refused to speak in further detail about the case.