By Hrach Melkumian
The use and sale of narcotics remains extremely rare in Armenia with drug-related offences accounting for a fraction of overall recorded crimes, according to the country’s two main law-enforcement agencies. Senior law-enforcement officials insisted on Friday that drug addiction is practically absent among children and adolescents.
“I believe that the situation in Armenia, especially in comparison with most countries of the world, is very good,” said Deputy Interior Minister Armen Yeritsian. “There are virtually no drug addicts among our children. This is very important.”
Yeritsian said that there are only about a thousand drug users listed in the Armenian police database. Their number shows no signs of increasing at the moment, he added.
According to Deputy Prosecutor-General Zhirayr Kharatian, particularly rare is the consumption of so-called “hard narcotics” such as heroin. He said the police found and confiscated merely 15 grams of heroin last year.
Figures released by the senior prosecutor show that 69 persons were arrested in 2001 for selling drugs while 471 others were caught using them, a crime punishable by up to three years in jail under the Armenian Criminal Code. Drug trafficking and trade carries prison sentences ranging from four to ten years.
“Having said this, we must carry out relevant work to prevent a deterioration of the situation here as well,” Yeritsian said.
The two men spoke at an official ceremony marking the launch of the second phase of a regional anti-drugs program co-sponsored by the United Nations and the European Union. Armenia will receive 960,000 Euros ($860,000) as part of the effort to make sure that international drug trafficking syndicates do not use the three regional states as a transit route. The program is designed to improve their drug-related legal framework and boost their border security.
A member of an Armenia non-governmental organization, who asked not to be identified, told RFE/RL that the number of drug users is at least twice as higher as the official figures show. He said no thorough research has been conducted to date to determine the scale of the problem.