Amnesty International criticized the Armenian authorities’ human rights record on Friday, singling out what it sees as their failure to combat police brutality and domestic violence and to introduce “genuine” civilian service.
“Perpetrators of human rights violations continued to enjoy impunity,” the London-based human rights group said in its annual report.
“Following its visit to Armenia in September, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention expressed concern about ill-treatment and beatings of detainees and prisoners,” says the report. “It also expressed concern over detainees being pressured in order to extract confessions.”
Amnesty International pointed to the April 2010 death of a man in the central Armenian town of Charentsavan shortly after his arrest on suspicion of theft. Armenian law-enforcement authorities say Vahan Khalafian committed suicide after being beaten up by local police officers.
One of those officers was sentenced to eight years in prison last November. Another Charentsavan policeman got off with a suspended prison sentence.
Khalafian’s family strongly disputes the official version of events, saying that the 24-year-old was beaten to death by his interrogators and that not all of them were prosecuted. The sentenced officer, Ashot Harutiunian, also insisted during his trial that Khalafian did not commit suicide.
The Amnesty report says that no independent investigation has been conducted yet into the March 2008 use of deadly force against opposition protesters in Yerevan. It notes the fact that nobody has been brought to justice in connection with the deaths of eight protesters and two police personnel in those clashes.
Violence against Armenian women and girls is another major highlight of the report. The rights watchdog said that despite setting up an interagency body tasked with combating the practice, the Armenian government made no progress in 2010 on “enacting legislation specifically addressing violence against women and the setting up of shelters.”
Amnesty International also reiterated its concerns about the continuing imprisonment of Armenian men refusing military service and a civilian alternative to it offered by the state on religious grounds.
“At the end of the year [2010,] 73 men were serving prison sentences for refusing to do military service on grounds of conscience,” it said. “The alternative service remained under military control.”
The vast majority of those men are members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a non-traditional religious organization based in the United States.
The Amnesty report mentions in that context a November ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that rejected an appeal filed by an Armenian conscientious objector. The Strasbourg court upheld an earlier verdict saying that the European Convention on Human Rights does not guarantee the right of conscientious objection.