Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

HCAV Program Manager Ofelya Zalyan participates in OSCE ODIHR Human Dimension Conference

October 11, 2022

Other | Activities | Right to Freedom from Torture | Publications | News | Civilian Oversight and Monitoring

During the OSCE ODIHR Human Dimension Conference held in October 2022 in Warsaw, HCAV Program Manager Ofelya Zalyan presented the situation of the fight against torture in Armenia. In her speech, she also addressed the ongoing practice of torture and cruel treatment of ethnic Armenians by Azerbaijan. HCAV representative also participated in the discussion organized by the Civic Solidarity Platform's working group against torture and presented 2021-2022 indices on torture in Armenia. The full report will be published soon.  
Below you can find the speech transcript.

Torture was criminalized in Armenia in 2015. Since then, Armenia has undertaken a number of obligations to reduce torture cases and increase effectiveness of investigations into criminal cases.

It should be mentioned that over recent years, the authorities have done some work to practically ensure prohibition of torture. As a result of legislative changes of 2022, application of statute of limitations and amnesty was prohibited for crimes of torture; the scope of the concept of an official was expanded to include as subjects of torture state and public officials, persons entitled to act on behalf of local self-government bodies or a non-profit organization established by the community 

However, the new Criminal Code criminalizes only corpus delicti of torture, severe physical pain or mental suffering. Acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are not included as types of crimes. 

In 2021, Armenia recorded an obvious setback in legal regulations of investigative jurisdiction of cases of torture, by dissolving the Special Investigative Service, the designated agency for investigating crimes committed by public officials, and transferring investigative jurisdiction of torture crimes to the Investigative department of the National Security Service.

As a result of active advocacy of civil society, in May 2022, the issue of investigative jurisdiction underwent one more legislative change, and the function of investigating torture cases was transferred to the RA Investigative Committee. 

Unfortunately, the poor enforcement of the law continues to be the biggest problem։ despite numerous torture reports there is only one conviction for the crime of torture, which entered into legal force In March 2022. 

The practice of improper documentation of torture cases continues, as a result of which the fact of torture or ill-treatment is not recognized. 

Some perpetrators of torture, including police officers, prison administration representatives, not only remain unpunished, but are sometimes even promoted.

Introduction of the institute of compensation for torture survivors in the domestic legislation implies its permanent functioning at the expense of the state. However, to date, there are no state-funded rehabilitation centers for torture survivors. 

Now, in the conditions of ongoing practice of torture and ill-treatment by Azerbaijan against ethnic Armenians – which intensified during the war unleashed by Azerbaijan in 2020 and continues to date - it is essential to have rehabilitation centers consistently funded by the state.

Not only Armenian prisoners of war under control of the Azerbaijani armed forces, but also civilians become victims of torture and ill-treatment. 

Azerbaijan's aggression against Armenia negatively affects the internal reforms, since security matters have become the priority.

On the other hand, cases of torture of civilians and captives by the Azerbaijani armed forces during the hostilities made the protection of the right to be free from torture even more urgent, which is difficult especially as a result of unpunished acts of the Azerbaijani authorities.

We call on the international community and the OSCE organizations to investigate the cases of torture and extrajudicial execution of Armenian prisoners of war and civilians captured by the Azerbaijani authorities.

And on the other hand, to demand from the RA authorities, despite objective difficulties, to make efforts to reform the domestic institute in order to eliminate violations of the right to be free from torture, and conduct effective investigation.




Further, during the session on humanitarian issues, Ofelya Zalyan presented the humanitarian issues caused by the war unleashed by Azerbaijan, and also addressed the issue of thousands of persons displaced as a result of indiscriminate targeting by the Azerbaijani armed forces during the 44-day war, as well as the military aggression unleashed  in September 2022.


Below you can find the speech transcript.


2 Years After Unleashing the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, which involved violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, Azerbaijan’s threats and human rights violations continue.

On September 13, 2022, Azerbaijani military forces launched a large-scale aggression, attacking the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, along the eastern and south eastern line of contact, deliberately targeting not just military objects but also civilian infrastructure, including more than 18 communities in 3 provinces.

The military attack of the Azerbaijani armed forces has violated the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Armenia. During the first 2 days of the attack, 10 square kilometers were occupied by Azerbaijan in addition to 40 square kilometers occupied last year.

During 13-15 September, at least 7600 persons, mostly women, children, elderly people, and persons with disabilities, were displaced from Gegharkunik, Syunik and Vayots Dzor provinces. Safety of their return is still questionable.

Some families did not even manage to leave the conflict zone and had to hide with their children in the nearby caves as a result of the indiscriminate targeting of the civilian population by the Azerbaijani armed forces.

Azerbaijani military attacks are accompanied by gross violations of the International Humanitarian Law and human rights. It is of particular concern that during the attack the Azerbaijani side is targeting the civilian population and vital civilian infrastructures, including schools and kindergartens.

 In some areas, schools and kindergartens were under direct fire and targeted by the Azerbaijani armed forces. We believe that targeting of these institutions was deliberate as the use of various military equipment by the Azerbaijani armed forces was more intense during the hours when children attended school and kindergarten.

On September 13, in the Syunik region, the Azerbaijani armed forces targeted two ambulance vehicles. One of the drivers was killed.

Videos widely circulated by Azerbaijani users on social media demonstrate the war crimes, extrajudicial killings of Armenian prisoners of war, torture of Armenian servicemen, including women, and desecration of corpses by the Azerbaijani armed forces. These acts of crimes against humanity, while condemned by the international community, are largely praised by the Azerbaijani society, leaving little hope for peaceful coexistence and reconciliation.

Horrific videos emerged on social media On September 16 and October 2, 2022.

In the video disseminated on September 16th an Azerbaijani soldier, shows a number of bodies of Armenian soldiers, including two women. One of the women was stripped naked, and the name of the Azerbaijani special military unit was written across her breasts and stomach. A stone was placed in her eye socket and a severed finger put in her mouth. It should be mentioned that both women were health instructors and health workers as announced by the Ministry of Defense of Armenia.

The second video published on the Azerbaijani telegram channels on October 2nd shows Azerbaijani soldiers arbitrarily executing a group of Armenian POWs. The Armenian human rights defender stated that the killing of Armenian prisoners of war by the Azerbaijani military took place on September 13, during the large-scale attack of Azerbaijan against the Republic of Armenia.



On October 6 a discussion entitled “Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues after the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War” was held in Warsaw in the scope of Human Dimension Conference of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).


The event was organized by the Open Society Foundations – Armenia jointly with the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor Office, “Protection of Rights without Borders” NGO and Law Development and Protection Foundation.


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