OPEN LETTER TO ARMENIAN PRESIDENT: PUTTING AN END TO TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENTS IN ARMENIA

Panorama.am
30/10/2012

Armenia Civil Society Institute (CSI) and International Federation
for Human Rights (FIDH) have sent a joint open letter to Armenian
President Serzh Sargsyan, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, Minister
of Justice Hrayr Tovmasyan, Head of the Police Vladimir Gasparyan
and Prosecutor General Agvan Hovsepyan.

The authors of the letter call on the Armenian authorities to take
measures aimed at implementing the recommendations of the United
Nations Committee against Torture.

>From words to acts: putting an end to torture and ill-treatments
in Armenia

Mister President,

On 10 and 11 May 2012 the United Nations Committee against Torture
considered the third periodic report of Armenia. A number of civil
society organizations, including the International Federation for
Human Rights (FIDH) together with its member organization in Armenia
Civil Society Institute (CSI) submitted alternative reports concerning
the compliance of the state legislation, acts and policies with the
UN Convention against torture.

After two days of constructive dialogue with the Armenian Delegation,
the UN Committee adopted concluding observations whereby it expressed
serious concerns over a number of issues. The Committee declared
it is "seriously concerned by numerous and consistent allegations
[...] of routine use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police
custody," especially to extract confessions to be used in criminal
proceedings as well as by military personnel. The Committee concluded
that prompt, impartial or effective investigations and prosecutions
are not conducted, and that consequently punishment of the perpetrators
is not ensured and compensation to the families of the victims is not
provided. Definition of torture in the Republic of Armenia Criminal
Code is not in line with articles 1 and 4 of the Convention.

The Committee also stressed that "victims and witnesses of torture and
ill-treatment do not file complaints with the authorities because they
fear retaliation." There is no effective mechanism to facilitate the
submission of complaints, and to ensure in practice that complainants
are protected against any ill-treatment, intimidation or reprisals
as a consequence of their complaint.

Among a number of recommendations, the UN Committee stressed that in
the context of the current legislative reform, the Republic of Armenia
should take "prompt and effective measures to ensure, in law and in
practice, that all detainees are afforded all legal safeguards from
the very outset of their deprivation of liberty." These include the
rights to access to a lawyer, to an independent medical examination,
to notify a relative, to be informed of their rights, and to be
brought promptly before a judge.

In addition, measures should be taken to ensure audio- or videotaping
of all interrogations in police stations and detention facilities as
a further preventive measure.

Moreover, as the Committee recalled, under international law
confessions obtained through torture should never be used as evidence
in judicial proceedings. Relevant means should be taken to ensure that
legislation concerning evidence to be adduced in judicial proceedings
is brought in line with article 15 of the Convention and statements
obtained by torture are not invoked as evidence in any proceedings.

CSI and FIDH share the concerns expressed by the UN Committee. We call
on the Armenian authorities to take measures aimed at implementing
the recommendations without undue delay.

Actions should be taken to duly criminalize torture, in accordance with
the provisions of the Convention, to prevent adequately acts of torture
and ill-treatment throughout the country, and to ensure accountability
by promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigating all incidents
of torture, ill-treatment and death in custody; prosecute those
responsible; and report publicly on the outcomes of such prosecutions.

Mister President,

The CAT review is an occasion for the Republic of Armenia to prove
that it stands by its international commitment to eradicate the
practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments
on its territory. CSI and FIDH call on the Armenian authorities to
seize this opportunity to take action by amending its legislation,
by reforming its Criminal Procedure and Criminal Codes and by taking
any other action necessary to bring its law and practice in line with
international standards.

Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President Arman Danielyan, CSI President