On June 26, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, ՛՛Against Violation of Law՛՛ NGO and Civil Society Institute in cooperation with the Chamber of Advocates summoned a conference entitled “A World without Torture-2012”.
Torturing has become an administrative practice՛՛It seems that every year our public authorities more promptly respond to torture, cruel or degrading treatment cases. However, while looking at the situation in general, I should stress that unfortunately we are far from complete elimination of torture՛՛, said Larisa Alaverdyan, ՛՛Against violation of law՛՛ NGO, Director.
According to her, their organization records torture cases with the frequency which feeds the opinion that “this working style has become the administrative practice”.
“I stress out every time that death occurrence in army has decreased but unfortunately this year there was 45 death cases recorded and they are not connected with the actions of enemy and natural death causes. The public is not properly informed who were held accountable and what kind of steps were taken in order to avoid such cases in future”, says Larisa Alaverdyan while discussing the situation in the army. In her opinion, lack of public awareness feeds the opinion that “death cases are just a top of iceberg.”
Among legislative gaps Larisa Alaverdyan mentions that there is no clear separation between torture, cruel treatment and dignity notions while this is a practice of the European Court of Human Rights.
“Comprehensive national program on prevention of violence should be developed”
Chairman of the Civil Society Institute NGO Board, General Secretary of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) Artak Kirakosyan stresses out that they follow the investigation of several torture cases (Sasha Davtyan, Levon Gulyan, Stepan Hovakimyan, Vahram Qerobyan) and can state that there is no progress in recent years.
“The main problem is explicit defensive position of the public authorities, rejection of the problems and absence of actions aimed at the regulations of the situation. I hope that state representatives will accept that the problem exists, after that the process aimed at the creation of the national program of combating torture will start”, says Artak Kirakosyan.
He says that the violence is applied almost everywhere and a comprehensive approach is needed.’’If we look globally we will notice that today in Armenia there is a need for unified national program on violence prevention starting from the school’’.
“It is my fault that there is torture in Armenia today” RA Human Rights Defender
On the question “why situation with torture is not changing” the Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasyan responded self-critically because ex-officio the institute of Human Rights’ Defender (Ombudsman) is designated as the National Mechanism for prevention of torture, violence, inhuman treatment.
“It is my fault that there is torture, violence and inhuman treatment in detention places, police, army and other closed institutions of Armenia today. I find myself responsible for this because according to the law, the Human Rights Defender should have been able to prevent these cases but I can not”, stated the Ombudsman. According to Karen Andreasyan, he cannot stop the violence because there are not sufficient resources. First of all, it is a lack of financial means. The Ombudsman said that 5 million AMD allocated from the state budget is not sufficient to prevent the violence. He is going to raise this problem during the discussion of the budget program for 2013 and expects the support form NGOs.
The Human Rights Defender noticed that the situation is changing with “every death case.” “We would prefer, I and those state representatives who are entitled to do so, to change the situation instead of victims”, Karen Andreasyan says and adds that the fight against one slap or one curse should be started in order to prevent them to turn into death.
“The police officer who uses torture realizes he is not going to be punished”
The member of the UN Subcommittee Against Torture, President of the Civil Society Institute NGO Arman Danielyan compares the situations in other countries and concludes that in Armenia as well as other post-soviet countries the approach of prosecutor Vyshinsky is prevalent which is “The self-confession is the queen of the evidence”.
According to Arman Danielyan, torture became a working style of the law-enforcement bodies. “When there is a communication on torture, no step is taken by the Prosecutor's Office or a criminal case is instituted and then is terminated because of the absence of corpus delicti”, he says and adds that impunity of torture perpetrators equals to their encouragement.
While talking about the causes of the problem, he mentioned several. One is a heritage of Soviet era, the issue of “providing the required number of revealed crimes”. “Up to this day, the Police have the task to provide high rate in order to show how effectively they work” , says Arman Danielyan and adds that from this perspective, the most rapid option is extortion of self-confession instead of implementation of the professional investigation which is a time-consuming and long lasting process. On the other hand, according to the expert, the level of professionalism of the Police is very low. Another root cause of torture is impunity. As Arman Danielyan said, the police officer who exerts torture realizes he is not going to be punished. Only in extreme cases perpetrators are held accountable, when somebody dies for example. However, the practices shows that sometime even in those cases perpetrators are not punished. For example in the case of Levon Gulyan.
According to Arman Danielyan, today it is hard to understand how many torture cases are recorded in Armenia or how the fight against torture is implemented because the wording used in the Armenian legislation does not comply with the definition of torture provided in the UN Convention against torture. Arman Danielyan believes that the best way to combat torture is establishment of preventive mechanisms. He also suggests creating legislative mechanisms allowing the courts to exclude confession extorted through torture even if the fact of torture was not proved. “There will be no use to apply torture then“, says the human rights defender.
Legislative suggestions are expected from NGOs
Head of the Legal Department of RA Police Tatul Petorsyan believes that the law provides very strict sanctions for torture. In case of torture allegation the law gives the possibility to the judge to separate materials from the case file and submit them to the Prosecutor's Office and the latter is obliged to implement the investigation.
According to Tatul Petrosyan, today serious measures are taken to raise the level of knowledge among police officers; guides are developed to assist police officers in taking rapid decision on the ground.
Tatul Petrosyan stressed out the importance of the public control over the closed institutions. “There are Groups of observers functioning in penitentiary institutions and Police detention centers. The Group members have the right to access to the institutions; they conduct research and publish reports. These reports are carefully discussed and each question receives clear answer”, says the Police representative.
He expects that the NGOs will present legislative recommendations on the reforms of the Criminal Procedure Code which is discussed today.
They do not deny there is violence in military units
The employee of the Legal Department of the RA Ministry of Defense Artyom Sedrakyan stated that unfortunately there is torture and other cruel treatment in the military units under the Ministry of Defense as the army is part of the society.
He stressed out that the Ministry continuously works to solve these problems and had proposed two important legislative initiatives: “Disciplinary Code of the Armed Forces” has been adopted by the Government and amendments to the law “On Alternative Service” are discussed at the moment.
Artyom Sedrakyan also stressed the importance of the Public Board under the Ministry of Defense and said that the Ministry works to expand the public oversight over the military system.
During the conference defense lawyers had the possibility to present torture cases under their proceedings (see the video) which www.hra.am will present in near future. As an example of the extortion of confession in the course of violence and use of the evidence as a ground for the criminal case, the case of Stepan Hovakimyan was presented. The human rights defenders issued a statement on June 26, 2012 and demanded to recognize inadmissible the evidence obtained through violence and pressure.