The office of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman has deplored continuing abuses committed by law-enforcement authorities, singling out ill-treatment of criminal suspects held in custody.
The office released late on Thursday an annual report on human rights in the country nearly two months after the unexpected resignation of its previous head, Karen Andreasian. The Armenian parliament appointed Arman Tatoyan, until then a deputy justice minister, as new ombudsman in February.
Police brutality is the main highlight of the more than 400-page-long report. It says that the Armenian police and the Investigative Committee continued to forcibly extract confessions in 2015 from individuals accused or suspected of various crimes.
The report says that the Special Investigative Service, another law-enforcement agency that is subordinate to state prosecutors, frequently failed to properly investigate torture allegations.
Armenian human rights campaigners have long asserted that ill-treatment of criminal suspects in Armenia is the norm. “I don’t know of a single objective and thorough investigation conducted into an instance of such ill-treatment,” one of them, Zhanna Aleksanian, said on Friday, commenting on Tatoyan’s report.
The ombudsman’s office further criticized the police for using force against anti-government protesters and restricting freedom of assembly otherwise. It noted in particular the dispersal of a June 2015 demonstration in Yerevan against an increase in electricity prices.
The report makes no references to serious fraud that was reported by Armenian opposition activists and observers during a December 2015 referendum on President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional amendments. Dozens of Armenian election officials have been prosecuted on corresponding charges since then. None of them has been imprisoned, however.
Zaruhi Postanjian, an opposition parliamentarian, criticized the ombudsman for not mentioning the conduct of the referendum. Postanjian also faulted him for not mentioning jailed critics of the Armenian government that are considered political prisoners by the opposition.