The Armenian police have stopped systematically ill-treating detainees and using disproportionate force against anti-government protesters, the chief of the national police service claimed on Tuesday.
“We have changed ways and are not doing that anymore. The policy has changed,” General Vladimir Gasparian assured reporters.
Gasparian thus stood by his remarks made during a visit to Gyumri last week. He was asked by journalists there to comment on Ukrainian security forces’ controversial handling of continuing street protests in the capital Kiev and other parts of the Ukraine. “We too had beaten up, smashed and humiliated [people,] but don’t do that anymore. We are now tolerant,” he said.
The unusually blunt remarks led critics to declare that Gasparian confessed to serious human rights abuses committed by the Armenian police and punishable by law.
Gasparian clarified on Monday that he referred to the Soviet-era police forces that were known as “militia.” “There had long been talk of militia extracting testimony by force,” he said.
The police chief, known for his occasionally flamboyant statements and behavior, claimed that there can now be only “isolated cases” of police officers beating up criminal suspects in custody. Armenian human rights activists are certain to dispute this assertion. They have long said that police brutality remains the norm.
As recently as in November, the arrested leader of several dozen anti-government protesters who clashed with riot police in Yerevan, Shant Harutiunian, alleged that Gasparian personally hit him in custody. The police denied the allegation.