On January 22, 2015 “Civil Society Institute” NGO with the support of the European Union organized a conference entitled “Fighting Impunity for Torture: from Words to Actions”. The aim of the conference was to present the steps taken to prevent torture in Armenia as well as to discuss the effectiveness of those steps.
After the welcome speech Mr. Arman Danieyan, President of CSI, presented the outcome and activities undertaken in the frames of the EU funded project “Excluding Torture and Forced Confessions as a Ground for Fair Trial” implemented in 2013-2014.
“The problem of torture is multilayered and it is impossible to solve it in one day. To solve the problem, of course, political will is needed, however, that is not enough. There is a need for coordinated actions in various areas – from organising training sessions for police officers on new investigation methods and techniques and enhancing technical capacity up to ensuring effective methods of torture prevention and bringing perpetrators to justice”. In this regard some steps have been undertaken in the recent years, in particular the statements made by the Head of Police, creation of a relevant department at the SIS, drafts laws. However, up-to-date there is no coordinated program against torture which would involve all the stakeholders”, Mr.Danielyan stated in his speech.
Mr. Danielyan stressed that there was a need to raise intolerance of the public towards torture. According to the surveys conducted in the frames of the project, approximately 30% of the public is tolerant to torture or believe its application can be justified.
CSI lawyer Anna Melikyan presented “Torture in Armenia in 2013-2014” report published in the frames of the project. The reports addresses the international and domestic legal framework related to torture, practice of torture in Armenia, impunity linked with the fact that torture is not duly criminalized and allegations of torture are not effectively investigated. The report is enriched with the analysis of interviews conducted with the experts in the field (judges, SIS investigators, police officers, defense lawyers, staff of the Ombudsman’s office and representatives of human rights NGOs).
According to Anna Melikyan, the interviews with the experts demonstrate that there are several factors contributing to the practice of torture in Armenia: “These are the impunity leading to continuous practice of torture, legislative gaps, failure to ensure effective investigation, a number of issues related to police, such as low level of technical capacity, lack of professional skills and expertise. It has also been mentioned that not all judges respond adequately to all torture allegations and take appropriate actions in their regard”.
According to the lawyer, there is also a generic problem, i.e. lack of trust towards the justice system. As a result, people do not speak out and lodge complaints on being subjected to torture. The issue of ensuring the right of torture victims to fair and adequate compensation is also presented in the report.
CSI also presents around twenty recommendations aimed at tackling identified issues and raising effectiveness of the fight against torture in Armenia.
Representatives of the Police, Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Justice and the judiciary as well as representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office, local and international organisations and diplomatic corps attended the conference.
The representatives of the Armenian Police and the Ministry of Justice presented steps and measures undertaken within their justification aimed at preventing torture and combating impunity for it. Notably, the Special Investigation Service, which is the main body responsible for investigating torture cases, refused to participate in the conference and deliver a presentation.