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CE COMMISSIONER: ‘THERE ARE PEOPLE IN PRISON WHO SHOULDN’T BE THERE’


By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The visiting Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights admitted on Wednesday that “there are people in prison who shouldn’t be there for various reasons” in Armenia.

Thomas Hammarberg made these remarks in answer to RFE/RL’s question on whether he thinks there are political prisoners in the country. He did not elaborate, though, saying that he will present some of his conclusions at a press briefing on the last day of his visit, Thursday.

“I think that the problem lies with the functioning of the system of justice, which we are looking into during this visit,” Hammarberg explained to RFE/RL following his meeting with the Armenian National Assembly’s Human Rights Committee that proceeded behind closed doors.

“We will come up with recommendations,” he added before heading for another meeting in parliament with Speaker Tigran Torosian. Their meeting was also closed for media.

Hammarberg, who has been on a five-day fact-finding mission in Armenia since Sunday, is due to submit a summary report on the human rights situation in the country to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers early next year.

In Armenia Hammarberg has visited different places and held meetings with various officials to assess the state of human rights protection as well as progress made by the country’s authorities in this direction.

So far he has avoided voicing any opinions, saying that his mission focuses on the country’s judicial system and corruption risks, as well as a broad scope of issues related to free speech, trafficking, the rights of vulnerable social and economic groups, etc.

“I will talk at the end of the mission with the prime minister and then we will have a brief press conference where I will say something about my conclusions,” Hammarberg said.
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