On 26 June, Civil Society Institute (CSI) and Foundation Against Violation of Law (FAVL) NGOs organized a number of events to commemorate the United Nations’ International Day of Support to Victims of Torture.
The organizations disseminated a joint announcement stating that the ineffective investigation and impunity have remained as a serious problem in cases of torture.
A conference “Fighting impunity-2014” was organized at the initiative of CSI and FAVL in Yerevan to raise the issue of prohibition of torture and discuss possibilities and mechanisms of torture prevention and cooperation among state and non-state bodies in providing assistance to victims of torture.
“The issue of struggle against torture has been raised mainly only at the level of statements. The statistics demonstrates that the number of registered cases of torture has increased, but the number of court appeals and the number of officials called to responsibility for use of torture has decreased”, said Arman Danielyan, President of Civil Society Institute in his opening speech.
According to him, torture is widespread in the police and is used as a method to extort evidence. He outlined the reasons of this phenomenon: low level of professionalism of the police, lack of knowledge on technics of obtaining evidence by other means, and lastly, lack of public perception of torture as crime.
“We will not have professional police until torture is stopped to be used as an easy means to extort evidence. In addition, the courts’ indifference towards statements on torture is alarming”, said A.Danielyan.
Larisa Alaverdyan, Executive director of Foundation Against Violation of Law NGO, emphasized that the government’ struggle against torture is insufficient, that the society does not see the results of this struggle, and those who apply torture escape punishment, which creates an atmosphere of impunity. “We live in the 21st century. We need to abandon this method at the state level and punish those, who continue the practice”, she said.
Larisa Alaverdyan also mentioned the existing legislative gap, saying that our Criminal Code does not reflect the UN Convention against torture, and for years, the term “torture” has not been brought into compliance with the requirements of the Convention.
“The European Court of Human Rights defines six types of torture, inhuman and cruel behavior, and we can be directed by these definitions, we do not have to invent a bicycle”, says Mrs. Alaverdyan.
The conference was organized with support of the RA Ombudsman’s Office. Yeranuhi Toumanyants, Head of Torture Prevention Department at the Office, noted that the victims of torture often appeal to them too late, when it is not possible to do anything about it.
“It is important that the victims appeal to us as soon as possible, because the time in this case works against the victims.” Y. Toumanyants suggested that the investigation rooms be equipped with recording video cameras and the police provided with other technical means. She also emphasized importance of moral compensation and rehabilitation of victims, which is not ensured by our law.
Participants from the RA Police, Military Police, Prosecutor’s office, Special Investigation Service, Ministry of Justice, Court Department, Bar Association and other interested bodies expressed their opinions on torture and came up with short reports on current activities aimed at torture prevention and detection of torture cases.
In the evening, E.V.A Rock Band, Vahag Rush, Gigabeat, Ajdin Davoudi and others performed in an open-air rock concert “Rock Against Torture” at the Aznavour square.
Before the concert’s start at the square, Civil Society Institute invited passerby to participate in a game testing awareness on rights of persons who are brought to the police. Those participants, who gave correct responses on 10 out of 12 questions, received T-shirts from Foundation Against Violation of Law and Civil Society Institute NGOs.
Photos by CSI