New anti-torture expert report on Armenia

Ill-treatment of suspects detained by Armenian police and threats of reprisals issued to their families, are revealed in a new anti-torture report published today.

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) report follows two ad hoc visits to Armenia, carried out in April 2013 and May 2014.

During the April 2013 visit, the CPT’s delegation received “a significant number of allegations from detained persons that they had been subjected to physical or psychological ill-treatment and/or excessive use of force by police officers.

“The alleged physical ill-treatment consisted in the main of punches, kicks, or inappropriate use of batons, at the time of apprehension or during subsequent questioning (in particular by operational police officers).

“In addition, a number of allegations were received of threats of physical ill-treatment and of repercussions for family members. In several cases, the ill-treatment alleged was of such a severity that it could be considered to amount to torture (e.g. extensive beatings; infliction of electric shocks; simulated asphyxiation with a gas mask; blows to the soles of the feet).

“In a number of cases, the medical examination of the persons concerned and/or the consultation of medical files by the delegation revealed injuries which were consistent with the allegations of ill-treatment made.”

The CPT’s delegation also visited the Yerevan-Kentron Prison, to examine the conditions under which life-sentenced prisoners were being held.

In the report, the CPT expresses “serious concern that hardly any of the specific recommendations made after previous visits have been implemented as regards the situation of two life-sentenced prisoners who had been continuously held in solitary confinement for 13 years, without being offered any out-of-cell activity other than outdoor exercise for one hour per day.

“The Committee emphasises that the conditions under which the two prisoners were being held could be considered as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment, bearing also in mind that neither of them was being provided with adequate psychiatric treatment, even though they both suffered from severe mental disorders.”

In 2014, the CPT’s delegation also visited Nubarashen and Kentron Prisons in Yerevan. It received “hardly any allegation of physical ill-treatment from prisoners.

“However, the visit brought to light that many of the specific recommendations previously made by the Committee had not been (fully) implemented in practice, in particular, as regards the detention regime of life-sentenced prisoners, restrictions on prisoners’ contact with the outside world and the systematic use of handcuffs.”

In their response, the Armenian authorities indicate that new guidelines have been issued and that the training of police officers has been enhanced to prevent instances of police ill-treatment.

The Armenian authorities signal their efforts to improve the system of handling potential cases of police ill-treatment. The CPT welcomes the creation of the Special Investigation Service (SIS) as an independent investigative body.

However, the report’s authors state that “the examination of relevant documentation, including investigation files concerning complaints about police ill-treatment, revealed a number of flaws in the current system which clearly undermined the effectiveness of any action taken to detect and investigate such cases.”

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