By Karine Kalantarian
Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian accused the police and other law-enforcement bodies on Wednesday of underreporting and failing to solve many crimes committed in Armenia.
According to official statistics based on police data, the number of crimes fell by 8.6 percent to just under 4,000 in the first half of this year. As much as 85 percent of them are deemed to have already been solved.
Law-enforcement authorities reported major reductions in thefts, embezzlement of public property, drug circulation, and traffic accidents. But they also registered more murders, rapes and instances of tax evasion and bribery. In particular, the number of murders was reported to have increased from 37 to 40 in the six-month period.
Hovsepian questioned the veracity of these figures as he presided over a regular meeting of Armenia’s top state prosecutors. He said the Office of the Prosecutor-General has found that the Armenian police have failed to register more than 400 crimes in the first half of 2008 alone.
“The situation with the solving of crimes is very bad,” said Hovsepian. “Especially with regard to thefts and other crimes against property.” “Bodies conducting investigations and prosecutors have serious shortcomings in this sphere,” he added.
Hovsepian has repeatedly accused the police of crime cover-up and incompetence in the past as well. Senior police officials implicitly denied the allegations. They as well as representatives of the National Security Service (NSS) were conspicuously absent from the latest meeting of the leadership of Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General.
Under a reform of Armenia’s security apparatus opposed by Hovsepian, the Office of the Prosecutor-General was stripped last December of its authority to conduct pre-trial criminal investigations. That has since been the exclusive prerogative of the police, the NSS, tax authorities as well as the Special Investigative Service (SIS), a new law-enforcement body subordinated to the prosecutors.
The SIS was supposed to mainly investigate instances of government corruption and other abuses committed by state officials. However, its activities in the past five months have centered on the prosecution of dozens of opposition arrested in the wake of last February’s disputed presidential election.