UN Committee against Torture to examine Armenia’s record on torture

09/05/2012
Press release
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This week, Armenia’s torture record is up for review by the UN Committee against Torture. A report submitted to the UN monitoring body by FIDH and Civil Society Institute (CSI), its member organization in Armenia, highlights three failures of the state with regard to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments: failure to properly criminalize torture, failure to prevent it in police facilities or detention centers, and failure to hold accountable those responsible. The report provides the Committee with information on both the legal system and state practice in the country, illustrated by concrete cases that cover a wide range of torture practices.

Criminalization of torture

The Committee Against Torture previously called for legislative amendments to be undertaken in order to bring the definition of torture in line with Article 1 of the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments (UNCAT). However, no legislative amendments have been made so far. [1] CSI and FIDH thus call on the Committee to urge Armenia to make amendments to the Criminal Code and relevant legislation to define torture and ill-treatment according to the provisions of the UNCAT. [2]

Inadequate measures to prevent acts of torture

Presently, most acts of torture are inflicted by law enforcement officials during arrest and interrogation, mainly with the aim of obtaining confessions. FIDH and CSI call on the Committee to recommend a full reform of the judicial system in order to ensure an early access to a lawyer, notification of a relative, information on rights, medical examination and other safeguards from the moment of a person’s de facto apprehension, regardless of its legal status according to law. [3] These measures are key to prevent torture and mistreatment when in the hands of police.

Detention

Conditions of detention in Armenia are an other area of concern, particularly regarding poor medical care and the overcrowding in some penitentiary institutions. Moreover, complaint mechanisms in prisons do not operate effectively, because of a lack of confidentiality which undermines the ability to bring a complaint to the attention of the outside world. [4]

Impunity

The independence and effectiveness of investigations into allegations of torture are compromised because the police itself is in charge of such investigations. A Special Investigation Service (SIS) was established in 2007 to specialize in investigating cases involving possible abuses by public officials. However, in practice, the prosecutor’s office does not send all allegations of torture to the SIS for investigation, and police investigators continue to handle most of these cases. Communications about torture are therefore investigated within the framework of the very entity to which the perpetrators of torture themselves belong. Moreover, most cases of police mistreatment continue to be unreported due to fears of retaliation. The Committee should thus urge Armenia to take measures to ensure the independent, efficient investigation of cases of torture and ill-treatment. [5]

As stated in detail in the report, the Committee must urge Armenian authorities to urgently address the following issues as crucial steps towards fulfilling their obligations under the Convention. [6]

- Read the FIDH-CSI report

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