FIDH and CSI demand fair trial and independent investigation in the Stepan Hovakimyan and Vahram Kerobyan cases

Press release
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Two years have passed since Stepan Hovakimyan was charged on 6 February 2010 with organizing and committing theft at the “Moskva” cinema house on 10 January 2010.

On 6 February 2010, Hovakimyan was charged with violations of Article 177(3)(1) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia and detained after spending 72 hours in police custody. To this day Hovakimyan and Kerobyan (also later arrested) remain in detention at Nubarashen penitentiary institution. Their trials continue to be unduly delayed and no independent and fair investigation has yet been conducted. Despite two years to further corroborate the charges in his case, the principle evidence against Hovakimyan remains a confession statement obtained by police using duress and psychological violence on 6 February 2010.

Hovakimyan had already attended Yerevan police station on 11 and 14 January 2010, where he remained in custody for over 10 hours and was allegedly subjected to violent treatment, before being released without confessing.

On 6 February 2010 Stepan Hovakimyan again attended Yerevan police department where he was subjected to torture and inhumane and degrading treatment. In the course of this treatment Hovakimyan was beaten on the head, undressed, had his shoes removed and the soles of his feet beaten with a rubber baton until he confessed to theft. He claims to have been invited to the Yerevan police department on that occasion without a proper summons and before any complaint had been lodged by the victim or criminal proceedings instituted. Only after signing the confession statement was S. Hovakimyan permitted to inform his relatives of his custody, and given access to a lawyer for the first time.

Having been implicated in conniving in the theft in S. Hovakimyan’s confession statement, V. Kerobyan was arrested on 12 March 2010. He remains detained and charged with theft to date.

Hovakimyan’s complaint concerning torture on 6 February 2010, lodged with the Special Investigation Service (SIS), proved unsuccessful. SIS decided not to institute criminal proceedings against those responsible, relying instead on the police officers’ explanations of events and declining to investigate the torture allegations further. This decision was appealed in the Court of General Jurisdiction of the Kentron and Nork-Marash districts, but rejected on 2 August 2011. A subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeals culminated in the first instance judgment being upheld on 26 December 2011 - a ruling is currently lodged for appeal before the Court of Cassation. An admissibility decision on this latest appeal is currently pending.

FIDH and the Civil Society Institute call upon the Armenian authorities to:

Immediately release S.Hovakimyan and V. Kerobyan on bail;
Ensure both accused receive a fair trial within a reasonable time, including by confirming the inadmissibility of evidence obtained by coercion;
Conduct an independent, effective and thorough investigation into the torture allegations to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice;
Fully conform with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the European Convention on the Prevention of Torture and the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. These texts impose a clear obligation on Armenia to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture and stop the practice of using confessions obtained under duress to prosecute suspects.

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