By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian parliament on Tuesday voted to reduce from 96 to 72 hours the maximum period during which police can hold a person in custody without charging them with a criminal offence. Anybody detained on suspicion of involvement in a criminal activity will have to be released or face formal accusations within the next three days.
The measure, proposed by the Orinats Yerkir party, took the form of amendments in Armenia’s Code of Procedural Justice which were approved by the National Assembly in the second final reading. Orinats Yerkir leader Artur Baghdasarian called it “an important step towards protection of human rights” in Armenia where detainees are often mistreated by law-enforcement officials.
“Everybody knows what often happens in our law-enforcement system,” he told fellow lawmakers during debates on Monday. “Staying in jail for 24 more hours causes very severe psychological and other problems to a person.”
Baghdasarian and other proponents of the measure, effective from next January, argue that police and the prosecutor’s office will find it more difficult to forcibly extract confessions from suspects within the newly defined time frame. A presidential commission on constitutional reform has proposed to include a provision on the 72-hour detention period in the Armenian constitution.
According to Amnesty International, torture and ill-treatment of suspects in custody is the most frequent form of human rights abuses in Armenia. In its last annual report on the situation with human rights across the world released in May, the London-based group criticized the Armenian authorities for failing to investigate all instances of police brutality in 2000 “thoroughly and impartially.”