In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, they said a forensic examination of Vahan Khalafian’s body found ample evidence of torture which they believe he endured at a police station in Charentsavan, a small town about 40 kilometers north of Yerevan, during an interrogation last Tuesday.
Khalafian and three other local men were detained on suspicion of stealing 1.5 million drams ($3,800) worth of goods from another Charentsavan resident. The police claimed the next day that after the interrogation, Khalafian suddenly took a “kitchen knife” from a police officer’s drawer and fatally wounded himself in the stomach. It said the 24-year-old suffered from a mental disorder and was exempted from military service for that reason in 2005.
“I am officially stating that there was not a single injury on his body,” the chief of the national police service, Alik Sargsian, assured journalists. “No policeman used force against him.”
Armenia -- Vahan Khalafian, a 24-year-old man who died in police custody on 13 April 2010, undated.
However, Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) effectively questioned that claim as it took over the criminal investigation into Khalafian’s death later in the week. In a statement, the SIS said it is considering several theories, including “a hypothesis about Vahan Khalafian’s murder by employees of the Charentsavan division of the Armenian police.”
The SIS pointed to a forensic examination of the dead man’s body that was conducted in Yerevan on Thursday in the presence of one of his relatives. The law-enforcement body subordinated to state prosecutors did not publicize its findings, saying only that the corpse will undergo “several other examinations.”
According to Khalafian’s relatives, the young man had bruises in various parts of his body, lacerations on his chest and two holes in his abdomen. “They made crosses on his chest with a knife and stabbed him in the abdomen twice,” his sobbing mother Anahit told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “How could my boy make such crosses on himself?”
“If my son was a thief, they should have jailed, rather than killed him and sent me his dead body,” she said, weeping and screaming in anger. “Why didn’t they do that? What did my kid do?”
“You don’t have the right to be called humans, you are humanlike monsters … You should have proved his guilt instead of sticking a knife into his stomach,” Anahit Khalafian added, appealing to the police. She claimed that her son was innocent and that the local police detained him to extort a bribe.
Ill-treatment of criminal suspects has long been regarded as the most frequent form of human rights violations in Armenia. Local and international human rights groups continue to accuse the police and other law-enforcement bodies of routinely extracting confessions by force and intimidation.