Former Government Officials, Relatives to Hand Back Diplomatic Passports

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Dozens of relatives of former Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan are reportedly among more than 350 individuals whose diplomatic passports have been revoked since the recent change of Armenia’s government.

An Armenian law on diplomatic service allows not only Foreign Ministry officials but also the president of the republic, government members, lawmakers, Constitutional Court judges and their family members to hold diplomatic passports during their tenure. It obligates those officials and their relatives to hand back the passports after leaving office.

This requirement seems to have been routinely violated. According to the Foreign Ministry, 254 Armenian diplomatic passports have been invalidated for this reason in the last few months. More than a hundred other persons have surrendered such passports entitling their holders to visa-free travel to European Union member states and other countries.

Armenian media reports have said that individuals stripped of their diplomatic passports include Kocharyan’s and Sargsyan’s children, grandchildren, sons-in-law or daughters-in-law as well as their other relatives and even press secretaries. The latter could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan did not deny the veracity of the reported list which also includes the names of other retired senior officials, notably former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and former Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian. “I won’t comment on the list,” Balayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

A spokesman for Levon Ter-Petrosian, another former president who ruled Armenia from 1991-1998, insisted that both he and his family have had no diplomatic passports for the past two decades.

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“President Ter-Petrosian and [his wife] Lyudmila Ter-Petrosian received diplomatic passports during his presidency,” said Arman Musinian. “Two months after his resignation in 1998 then Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian demanded their surrender in a letter, which is what President Ter-Petrosian and Mrs. Ter-Petrosian did.”

Hraparak daily reported earlier this week that also losing his diplomatic passport was Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Armenia’s leading footballer currently playing for the English club Arsenal. Mkhitaryan’s mother, Marina Tashchian, told other media outlets afterwards that he handed back his passport this summer.

 

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