Joint Open Letter to the President of Armenia - From words to acts: putting an end to torture and ill-treatments in Armenia

Press release
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Yerevan, 26 October 2012

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

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