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The report of the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights provides an objective assessment of the human rights situation in Armenia. However, in practice no significant efforts are made in Armenia towards addressing the raised issues. This point was made during a discussion in the Media Center on 16 March.
On 10 March 2015 the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights Nils Muižnieks published a report on his visit to Armenia in October 2014. In the report he addressed such important issues as the progress of the criminal investigation into “March 1”, conviction of 15 year old Shahen Harutyunyan, problems in the judicial system of Armenia, torture and ill-treatment by police and other law-enforcement agencies, as well as non-combat acts of violence and death instances in the army.
Arman Danielyan, the director of “Civil Society Institute” NGO believes that the CoE Commissioner’s assessment is correct; however there is nothing new about the situation in Armenia in his report. “Similar reports are published quite often both by local and international organizations. Issues related to prevention of torture have been raised on numerous occasions. In this regard some small steps are being taken, amendments to the legislation are drafted in order to ensure compliance of the national law to Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture. Since 2011 similar amendments have been drafted, submitted to the Parliament, returned, so there is nothing out there yet”, stated Mr.Danielyan.
Lusine Sahakyan, a lawyer of “Bagin” law firm, another participant of the discussion, stated that the issues raised in the report are so deep and dimensional, that the Commissioner having spent only few days in Armenia was able to observe them and present in the report.
“The key issues are independence of the judiciary, lack of effective investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment, overuse of pre-trial detention as a measure of restraint, non-combat killings in the army”. There were numerous similar reports published by other commissioners, issues reflected in the report have been raised on numerous occasions, however we do not see any changes. Even if there are some reforms and changes in the legislation, the implementation practice does not change”, emphasized Mrs. Sahakyan.
One of the participants of the discussion, Yervand Varosyan, another lawyer representing “Bagin” law firm, stated that lack of progress was conditioned by lack of political will. “I am very glad that this report has been published as we raise these issues every day. We are told that we are partial; we are not objective, because we are defense lawyers. Well, the CoE Commissioner on Human Rights is not a practicing defense lawyer in Armenia, and he wrote in his report about the issues we have been talking for many years. The report mostly emphasizes the issues related to the judiciary. Unless we have an independent judiciary, we will not have anything, no matter how many laws we amend and revise”, emphasized Mr. Varosyan.
He stressed that in the report the Commissioner had highlighted the need for reforms not only in the law but also in practice.
Mr. Arman Danielyan added that it was not possible to fight against torture if there is no independent judiciary.
“The legislation in place allows us to punish torture perpetrators; however it is a matter of fact that no police officer who perpetrated torture serves real punishment in the penitentiary. If the judiciary gets ready to combat torture, then we would have results, and if it does not, then even if you change the Criminal Code 10 times, the courts would not fight”, stated Mr. Danielyan. The speakers agreed that a will to implement reforms in the system was required, and not a strategy of small changes.
“Some of the changes have even a nature of imitation. For instance, a criminal case is instituted into allegations of torture or ill-treatment in order to show the European Court that criminal cases are being instituted”, added Mrs. Sahakyan.
In this regard, Mr. Danielyan presented some statistics. According to the data, 87 criminal cases were instituted in 2014, however only one of them was sent to the court for trial. “It is obvious that they open investigation and immediately terminate it in order not to undertake any actions”, added Mr. Danielyan.
At the end of the discussion the speakers stressed that any change in Armenia would be possible under the pressure of civil society. Unless the authorities realize that there is a need to start a dialogue with the civil society around a table but not in the streets, no progress will be achieved.
Original Source Media Center website