Karen Andreasian, the state human rights ombudsman, urged the Armenian authorities on Tuesday to do more to combat ill-treatment of criminal suspects and other individuals, saying that the practice remains widespread.
Andreasian appealed to the chief of the Armenian police, Vladimir Gasparian, Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian and other top security officials during a public event dedicated to International Day in Support of Victims of Torture designated by the United Nations.
“If four or five of us admit that we are responsible [for the problem,] then perhaps journalists will no longer ask me why we keep talk about torture for 20 years,” he said.
Local and international human rights groups have long described torture as the most common form of human rights violation in Armenia. They say that the practice remains the norm in police custody, with detainees being routinely bullied and beaten to incriminate themselves or others.
Andreasian agreed that most of such cases are still unreported. “For example, there are much fewer reports of violence from prisons because things are closed there and people are scared of speaking up,” he said. “We hear about more cases of police torture and react to them very quickly.”
Tatul Petrosian, head of a legal department at the national police service, insisted that the Armenian law-enforcement authorities have started taking “quite active and serious measures” against torture. He also claimed that the root causes of the problem are beyond the country’s security apparatus.
“Maybe we should start from schools with the help of the Education Ministry,” Petrosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “In terms of torture prevention, we should start from personal upbringing.”
But Armen Danielian, an Armenian member of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, dismissed government assurances. “I would say that our officials encourage torture,” he said, arguing that Armenian courts and prosecutors usually ignore defendants’ claims that they confessed to crimes under duress.