YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian parliament approved on Tuesday President Serzh Sarkisian’s plans to set up a new and powerful law-enforcement agency tasked with conducting criminal investigations.
Sarkisian revealed those plans in September, forming an ad hoc commission that drafted a package of relevant amendments to Armenian laws. The commission has been headed by Aghvan Hovsepian, Armenia’s former longtime prosecutor-general.
It is was initially expected that the new body will incorporate divisions of the police, the Defense Ministry, the National Security Service, the Special Investigative Service (SIS) and the State Revenue Committee (SRC) specializing in the conduct of criminal inquiries.
However, under the final version of the bill passed by the National Assembly in the first reading, only the investigating arms of the police and the Defense Ministry will be incorporated into a single agency. Davit Harutiunian, the chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs, said that the authorities will wait for two or three years to see whether it should be expanded and given more powers.
Speaking during a parliament debate on the bill, Harutiunian did not deny that Hovsepian, who resigned earlier in September, is the top candidate for running the new law-enforcement body. Nikol Pashinian, an opposition lawmaker who was controversially jailed during Hovsepian’s tenure, claimed that Sarkisian decided to create the body to ensure that the influential ex-prosecutor does not stay unemployed and join his political foes.
“There are purely personal motives behind this bill,” Pashinian told the parliament. “It is unserious to even debate its wisdom.” “It will not change anything in Armenia. So don’t worry,” the outspoken oppositionist added mockingly.
“A new agency cannot be set up for a particular individual,” insisted Harutiunian. “The issue is a much more fundamental one.”
The new security service will essentially be modeled on Russia’s Investigative Committee. Hovsepian dismissed in December speculation that Sarkisian is replicating that structure in line with his plans to make Armenia part of the Russian-led customs and Eurasian unions.