Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

Police Violence is Becoming Systemic: Statement of NGOs

July 3, 2023

Activities | Announcements | Publications

The undersigned non-governmental organizations condemn the unprecedented violence and instances of torture in police departments and other law enforcement agencies of Armenia in recent months.

 

The sharp increase in violence against citizens by the police and other law enforcement agencies against the backdrop of judicial and police reforms announced by the government of the Republic of Armenia does not leave any room to claim the effectiveness of the announced reforms.

 

In particular, no instance of violence against an attorney was recorded in any police department in Armenia in the last 10 years, while in the first half of 2023 there were three such cases. The first case that happened in the Erebuni Police Department of the RA Ministry of Internal Affairs could create an impression that it was merely an exception. However, after the second and third cases it became obvious that we are dealing with a growing trend of police impunity.

 

At the same time, the number of credible reports of violence and torture of suspects by law enforcement officers has increased. We have received reports about beatings, insults, psychological pressures, degrading treatment, even burning cigarettes on different parts of the body, and other manifestations of torture.

 

Most remarkable is the recent credible report about the torture of Tigran Arakelyan by the officers and the Chairman of the RA Investigative Committee, in which Tigran Arakelyan tells about the torture in details, and the reliability of which can be easily determined by examination.

 

Recently, the intensity of police violence has increased so much that some cases (chief of Criminal Investigation Unit of Dilijan Police Department, “Poligraph”, Yerevan Wine Days) were recorded by a camera, and these videos are also available to the public.

 

An immediate and effective investigation is not carried out based on the reports of mentioned violence, investigative and prosecution bodies do not make necessary efforts to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of violence, resulting in consolidated impunity and decreased public trust in the law enforcement system compared to 2018.

 

Non-governmental organizations have the impression that an attempt is being made in Armenia to build respect for the police based on the already failed attempt to create an atmosphere of fear, rather than ensuring efficient service to the public. Such a policy and impunity of law enforcement agencies under the name of “reforms” is unacceptable not only from the point of view of democratic and state values and principles, but also directly contradicts the expectations of the citizens following the Velvet Revolution in 2018.

 

It should be emphasized that police violence occurs against the background of the inability to fight crime. As an example, the discoveries of the law enforcement officers of Italy and Georgia in recent months showed that tons of hard drugs (cocaine, heroin, etc.) are circulated in Armenia. However, the law enforcement officers of Armenia, not being able to detect the cases of trafficking of tons of heavy drugs, carried out a violent operation against at least 40 people in Poligraf club, as a result of which they found only 3.6 grams of light drugs (marijuana).

 

It is noteworthy that torture in police departments is often used for the sole purpose of extracting a confession and calling the crime “solved”. Those criminal cases typically stall and never go to court because the police system encourages officers to solve crimes rather than collect evidence.

 

This is yet another proof that it is not possible to effectively fight other crimes by using torture, which is itself considered a crime. Moreover, this goes to show that violence is often the result of incompetence in fighting crimes.

 

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, strongly condemn the ongoing violence by law enforcement officers, and declare that they are a consequence of the inaction of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and the ruling political majority, and the promised but flawed police reforms. In order to stop the appalling trend and dynamics of these crimes becoming commonplace, we demand to:

 

  1. Ensure an efficient, prompt and transparent investigation of every case of violence by law enforcement officers and hold perpetrators of violence accountable, remove employees who stand out for such actions and those who support them from law enforcement agencies.
  2. Within the framework of certification carried out in police and other law enforcement bodies, in addition to professional knowledge, also test the integrity of staff (legality of the origin of property, connections and interests), as well as the attitude towards violence.
  3. Create mechanisms for responding to and investigating reports of torture, as well as protecting and encouraging whistleblowers.
  4. Install cameras in all corridors of police stations and in all rooms where detainees are kept.
  5. Design the standard models of the police stations to be built (the models are designed by Urban Development Committee) so that the interior spaces are more transparent.
  6. Change the performance assessment indicators of police criminal investigation officers to encourage the collection of criminal evidence other than the statement or confession of the accused.

 

 

Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office

Union of Informed Citizens

Democracy Development Foundation

Human Rights Research Center NGO

Helsinki Association of Armenia

Public Journalism Club

Community Consolidation and Support Center NGO

Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center

Protection of Rights Without Borders

Law Development and Protection Foundation

“For Equal Rights” Educational Center NGO

“Free Citizen” Civic Initiatives’ Support Center

Women’s Resource Center NGO

“Ecolur” NGO

“Pink” Human Rights NGO

Peace Dialogue NGO

“Restart Gyumri” Initiative Center NGO

Center for Policy Studies

Media Initiatives Center

Goris Press Club

Human Rights House Yerevan

Restart Foundation for Science and Education

Armenian Progressive Youth NGO

Direct Democracy NGO

Journalists for Human Rights NGO

Martuni Women’s Community Council NGO

“House of Women’s Rights” NGO

“Tatevik” charitable NGO

“Shogher Union” Social-Educational NGO

Democratic Platform Foundation

«Armat Community» NGO

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