From left to right A. Melikyan, A. Danileyan, and T. Gharibyan
“In course of 5 years the law enforcement bodies were not able to investigate the ten murders committed on March 1, 2008 because they have been looking for perpetrators among demonstrators and cannot identify them whereas they did not even try to look for perpetrators among police officers though we are fully aware that some of them were killed as a result of misuse of special means”, says CSI President Arman Danielyan.
On April 3, Civil Society Institute’s (CSI) President and lawyers talked about human rights issues at Media Center.
Every four years Armenia submits to the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on the human rights situation in the country. The country’s UPR report has been submitted in 2010 and 166 recommendations were received from the UN member states.
Recently Armenia has submitted the Interim Implementation Report for the period from May 2010 to December 2012. As a result, out of all received and accepted recommendations 43 recommendations were considered implemented, 78 have been partially implemented and 42 considered not implemented so far.
At UPR review, Armenia did not accept the following recommendations: eliminating discrimination against Yezids, defining discrimination against women on the legislative level, terminating politically motivated persecutions, ensuring the right to peaceful assemblies.
Three organizations submitted the Alternative Interim Report
Along with the Interim report submitted by Armenia, Civil Society Institute (CSI) in cooperation with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) presented to the UN Human Rights Council the Alternative Interim Report for the same reporting period.
CSI lawyer Tatevik Gharibyan stressed out that they referred to the human rights issues of those sectors where they were specialized and made recommendations on improvements.
“The judiciary is not independent yet, courts demonstrate prosecutorial bias, the principles of equality of arms and presumption of innocence are violated.”
Situation with torture continues to raise concerns. Definition of torture does not comply with the definition in the UN Convention against Torture; victims often do not speak about fearing that their situation could be worsened. Even if they lodge complaints, no effective and impartial investigation is conducted.
The penitentiary institutions (PI) continue to be overcrowded. The living conditions may be evaluated as poor. There are no rehabilitation programs for inmates.
There is a need for juvenile justice reform. Prosecutors, investigators and defense lawyers who are involved in cases of juveniles must be specialized. The number of alternative not-custodial punishments should be increased”, briefly presented the report the lawyer.
According to the Alternative report, there is no significant progress made in the field of torture prevention in Armenia.
According to CSI lawyer Anna Melikyan, Armenia still has not fulfilled commitments: definition of torture has still not been brought into compliance with the United Nations Convention against Torture; police stations are still closed for the public monitoring group.
“The serious issue is that torture is accepted as a mean for obtaining confession and investigating criminal case”,- expresses concerns Tatevik Gharibyan and reminds of the Misha Harutyunyan’s case who was tortured with the aim of extracting self-incriminating testimony; the court accepted this testimony with argumentation that the torture had been applied with the aim of establishing the truth.
On the other hand, lawyers believe that there is a conflict of interests because the staff member of the body which is responsible for applying torture also conducts the investigation into torture allegations.
“We have highlighted in the report that prosecutor’s powers are conflicting in this field. On the one hand the same prosecutor implements the oversight of the lawfulness of investigation, approves the indictment and pursuing charges in court. Apparently there is a conflict of interests. If the testimony has been obtained illegally through torture, the prosecutor is deprived of the main evidence and cannot efficiently defend charges in court”, says Anna Melikyan.
Issues in the penitentiary system are numerous and have deep roots
CSI President Arman Danielyan believes that there is no progress made in the penitentiary system and the problems are numerous and have deep roots.
«The Ministry of Justice pledges that new penitentiary institutions will be built in the frames of carried our reforms and everything will be settled. We have been hearing these pledges for 10 years and do not have expectations that new PIs will be built in the nearest future. Even if they build new PIs, the issues have deeper roots», he says.
The human rights defender indicates a number of problems which are not connected to the material conditions.
There is a lack of efficient complaints procedures for inmates who are kept in PIs against the actions of the penitentiary service. That leads to the protests and complaints by means of self-harming.
Another issue of concerns is the interrelation between the Ministry of Justice and the Penitentiary Department.
«According to our assessment, today the Penitentiary Department does not take into account the position and opinion of the Minister of Justice because the Head of the Department is assigned by the President of Armenia directly and the Head of the Penitentiary Department assumes to be on equal footing with the Minister. The Minister should supervise the Head of the Penitentiary Department but the Minster is not entitled to dismiss the Head and the supervision depends on personalities. We think it is wrong », - says Arman Danielyan.
He believes that the penitentiary system is more closed now than it was 10 years ago: the Head of the Penitentiary Department does not give any interviews; access to the PIs for journalists is strictly limited which in human rights defender's opinion does not contribute to the transparency and oversight over the system.
The investigation into March 1 case has not revealed the murders for 5 years
The UN recommended conducting effective investigation into 10 deaths following the events of 1 March 2008, revealing perpetrators and providing with redress the families of victims. That has not been implemented so far.
CSI President Arman Danielyan highlights that for 5 years the Special Investigation Service was not able to reveal the crime that was committed in the presence of numerous law-enforcement officials.
He emphasized the fact that the criminal case was instituted under part 2(10.1) of Article 104 of the Armenian Criminal Code - murder committed during mass disorders by its participants.
«It is assumed that the police officers are not considered participants of the mass disorders and consequently murderers are sought among the protestors and cannot be found. They haven’t even tried to look for and find perpetrators among police officers in the recent years though we know that some people were killed as a result of misuse of special means», stresses out Arman Danielyan and suggests the SIS to pay attention to the actions of law-enforcement bodies. «Maybe then perpetrators will be found»
In response to a question of journalists what measures could be taken in case Armenia fails to implement its commitments, CSI President told that the UN lacks sanctions and binding procedures.
«Armenia undertook these commitments and pledges voluntarily and our objective is not to demand to take sanctions against Armenia. We have to be consistent and compel the government to fulfill its obligations or give solutions to existing problems in the country», told Arman Danielyan and reminded that Armenia still has time to implement the recommendations until the next UPR in 2 years.