The 26th of June is proclaimed by the UN as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, and it has been observed since 1997. Today “Civil Society Institute” NGO together with “Foundation Against Violations of Law” NGO organized a march and picketing with a motto “Armenia without torture”.
During the march letters with a number of recommendations aimed at torture prevention were handed to the relevant state bodies: the Police of Armenia, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Armenia, the Court of Cassation and the Special Investigative Service. The recommendations will be also mailed to the Armenian Ministry of Justice and the National Assembly.
The participants of the march were holding posters with slogans:”A beating policeman is weak -minded and a butcher”, “Don't investigate a crime by committing another crime”, “Victims of torture still waiting for justice” and other, including memorial posters of Levon Gulyan and Vahan Khalafyan who are victims of torture at the police stations.
A group of policemen met the demonstrators nearby the police headquarters. A policeman who introduced himself as Gevorgyan, a deputy chief of the Kentron Police, stated that “the building of the police is a regiment object and it is not allowed to stand in front of it, but instead the participants of the demonstration are allowed to stand on the opposite walk side.”
“Please tell us which provision of which law defines that we, a group of 20 peaceful demonstrators, cannot cross the street and assemble near the building of police headquarters given that we do not chant anything and there is no intention to disturb the police from their normal working regime, we don't block the street, we do not restrict others' right to free movement?” asked one of the demonstration participants, Mary Alexanyan, representing the Civil Society Institute.
“We do not refer to the law, we do not have so much time to refer to every law. You can ask the information officers at the police, they will answer all your questions”, said the policeman.
The representatives of the organizations, accompanied by a policeman, handed over the letter to a duty officer, then continued the march.
The next picketing was held in front of the First Instance Court of Kentron and Nork Marash administrative districts, where at 12 p.m. the hearings of the criminal case against two policemen accused of subjecting Robert Hovsepyan to torture and committing forgery at the police station started. “The fact that torture practice is common in the system is not excluded also by the Head of the Armenian Police. He announced at the meeting of police in last December that there was no need to investigate crimes by means of beating and torture, that a beating policeman was weak-minded and a butcher”. We want to believe that the statement of the Head of Police was not mere a statement and that he will do everything to eliminate the practice of torture in the system”, mentioned Mary Alexanyan in interview to the journalists, and added that the recommendations presented by them also aim at eliminating torture practice.
The organizers of the action stated that “Civil Society Institute” and “Foundation Against Violations of Law” NGOs have always kept in focus the issue of torture prevention and are ready to provide their expertise to make efforts in combating torture more efficient. Zara Amatuni, Communications Manager at CSI, said that recommendations submitted to the relevant authorities include changes to legislation as well as in the implementation practice. Such recommendations refer to the issue of definition of “torture” and bringing it into compliance with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, which Armenia acceded in 1993. Until now Article 119 of the Criminal Code of Armenia defining torture is not brought into compliance with the definition of torture in the UN Convention against Torture. This is one of the reasons that beating and violence exercised at police stations to extract confessions are not treated as torture. CSI sent information request to the Special Investigative Service (SIS) and it became clear that in 2010-2012 no criminal cases on charges under Article 119 were investigated by the SIS. Cruel treatment and instances of violence applied by police are charged under Articles 308 and 309 of the Armenian Criminal Code (abuse of official power, abuse of authority). In 2012 the SIS prepared case files into 43 allegations of this kind, however only in 2 cases criminal investigation was opened, and only 1 case was transferred to court.
Among other recommendations of the organizations are organization of professional training of the staff and regular attestation of professional capacities; referral of any allegation of torture and ill-treatment raised before a court to the SIS and instituting a criminal case; not using evidence allegedly extorted through such means until the investigation proves that there was no torture exercised.
Civil Society Institute is organizing a flash mob at the Northern Avenue at 18:30, which also is devoted to the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.