Twenty-six Armenian police officers have been sacked this year for violating human rights and committing other abuses, a senior police official revealed on Friday.
Colonel Vartan Harutiunian, who coordinates a “disciplinary commission” of the Armenian police, said the figure represents a twofold increase over last year. He listed use of excessive force against anti-government protesters as well as alcohol and drug abuse among reasons for the sackings.
“There are lieutenant-colonels among those expelled from the [police] system,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He declined to name them.
The fired officers apparently do not include Ashot Karapetian, the former chief of Yerevan’s police department. He was relieved of his duties but not formally discharged from the police service in August shortly after a two-week standoff between Armenian security forces and opposition gunmen who seized a police compound in the city’s Erebuni district.
Karapetian and 13 other officers were also subjected to disciplinary action because of their failure to prevent violent attacks on journalists and participants of one of the opposition rallies held in support of the gunmen. At least 60 people were injured and hospitalized in the Sari Tagh neighborhood overlooking the compound.
The Armenian authorities have since resisted calls for the dismissal of General Levon Yeranosian, the controversial commander of Armenian interior troops who played a key role in the Sari Tagh crackdown. The Special Investigative Service (SIS) said on Friday that it is continuing a criminal investigation into the police actions on that night.
Harutiunian said that any law-enforcement officer abusing their powers must be held accountable. “Police officers must deal with citizens in a reserved, appropriate and respectful manner … There have been cases where they violated citizens’ constitutional rights and were removed from the service,” he said.
The official insisted that the police have been consistently improving their handling of street protests and other “contacts with citizens.”
Artur Sakunts, a human rights activist, dismissed that claim, arguing that the police detained several hundred protesters during the Erebuni standoff. The number of similar arrests made during anti-government rallies in 2015 was much smaller, he said.
More police officers should be fired and even prosecuted for human rights abuses, added Sakunts.