Photo by hra.am
On 13 March 2013 in Yerevan a presentation of the research report on cruel treatment and torture against juvenile was held.
Eight juvenile offenders told that they were subjected to violence by police
In the framework of the research 86 juvenile offenders were interviewed (71 boys and 15 girls). Sociologist Yuliana Melkumyan mentioned that youth was not inclined to talk about instances involving cruel treatment and torture, because they feared vengeance and did not trust the system.
“Only 8 interviewees mentioned that they had been subjected to physical violence at the police. However, 51 per cent of them have heard about cases of cruel treatment and torture in relation to other children, including beating, sexual violence, cursing, threatening”, said the sociologist.
“I was beaten at the police, my nails were put under the door and stroked, they hit my legs with truncheons, held a pistol against my head”, “They beat me at the police, refused to give some water, did not give food for three days, did not allow me to go to toilet for two days”, “They held me for the whole day at the police. They took me from the investigator’s room to another one, where operative police officers beat me, then returned me to the investigator’s room. This had happened for several times, they wanted me to sign a protocol with minutes of interrogation” - these are excerpts from the stories told by juvenile offenders.
65 per cent of juvenile offenders participated in the research was informed at the police about the reasons of their arrest or detention, whereas 21 per cent were not, 52 per cent were given information about their rights and responsibilities, and 32 per cent were not. 33 per cent of interviewees mentioned that they had been interrogated in the absence of lawyers, and during interrogation of 19 per cent of respondents their legal representatives were not present.
71 per cent considered treatment by investigators as “normal”, 23 per cent deemed it “very police”, while 6 per cent considered it “rude”.
The treatment by the staff of the penitentiary institution was evaluated by 37 per cent of interviewees as “very polite”, 59 per cent considered it “normal”, and 3 per cent mentioned that they had been subjected to degrading treatment.
The judge’s treatment was evaluated by 43 per cent of interviewees as “very polite”, and by 57 per cent considered it “normal”.
According to the data presented by the sociologist, half of the juvenile interviewees consider their sentence as fair, 32 per cent believe that neither their judge nor their sentence were fair, and 18 per cent found the question difficult to answer.
No cases were instituted on the basis of medical examination of body injuries
According to Ani Nersisyan representing the Human Rights Defender’s office of Armenia, the complaint procedure in place is not effective.
The eight juvenile offenders, interviewed in the framework of the research, told about cruel treatment against them at the police stations, however mentioned that they had not filed a complaint.
“The fear that complaining would worsen their situation, lack of trust that complaining would bring about any results as it would be investigated by the people representing the same system, or lack of information on how they should act in this situation were among main reasons leading to such situation. There was also a striking case. Thus, a juvenile offender told that the policeman who had beaten him, proposed money to his father so that the latter would not file a complaint. The father did not take the money, but also did not complain,” says Ani Nersisyan.
The expert also presented the official statistics.
According to the data presented by the Ministry of Justice in 2010-June 2012, no complaints on cruel treatment or torture were received from juvenile offenders detained at the “Abovyan” penitentiary institution.
According to the data presented by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Armenia, they have not received any information about cases of cruel treatment or torture against juveniles during the same period.
However, in course of medical examination of juvenile offenders upon their entry to the penitentiary institution, there were some body injuries observed and recorded. Thus, in 2010, 5 cases with body injuries were registered, in 2011- 10 cases and as of June 2012 - 7 cases. 20 cases related to 17-year old juveniles, and there was one case in regard to a 15-year old and another with 16-year old juvenile. All were boys.
“An additional request was sent to the Prosecutor’s Office, and the answer provided some explanation, that in 2011 information about 4 cases and in 2012 information about 7 cases was referred to the Prosecutor’s office from the Abovyan penitentiary institution. It was mentioned that the juvenile offenders had not indicated that they had been subjected to cruel treatment or torture, but mentioned that the injuries had been sustained in domestic or other situations”, said the expert of the Human Rights Defender’s Office.
She also emphasized the need for specialization of bodies dealing with juveniles.
“In Armenia there are no specialized courts for juvenile offenders. Usually courts have judges to whom juvenile cases are usually referred to. From time to time, training sessions are organized, but for limited number of judges, which does not provide for specialized approach towards all juvenile offenders coming across the judicial system,” believes the expert.
According to her, there are no specialized departments for dealing with juvenile offenders in the prosecutor’s and the police system. Specialized police department dealing with prevention of offences among juveniles carries out its responsibilities mainly through registering children at risk”, mentions Ani Nersisyan.
Lawyer at the Civil Society Institute NGO Tatevik Gharibyan presented the legislative issues related to torture.
She particularly emphasized that the definition of ‘torture’ in Article 119 of the Criminal Code of Armenia was not in compliance with the UN Convention against Torture.
According to the official data, in 2010-2011 there were no sentences on Article 119 in relation to cases of application of torture or cruel treatment against juveniles. Also, there were no sentences on Articles 308 and 309 of the Criminal Code in relation to abuse of power by officials against juveniles.
The research demonstrated that information about cruel treatment and torture was not properly investigated.
“The credibility of the majority of complaints on torture is verified by police investigators and the most of them are evaluated as ungrounded. Only investigator or prosecutors can refer for forensic examinations. There are cases, when law enforcement agencies refer for forensic examination quite late, therefore this does not allow instances of torture be identified, as signs of torture disappear by that time,” mentions the expert.
The authors of the report suggest that alleged victim of torture and his/her lawyer also have the right to directly apply to experts to undergo forensic examination.