Armenian law-enforcement officials could now be held accountable if their decisions fall foul of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian said on Thursday.
Thousands of Armenians have appealed to the ECHR since their country submitted itself to the Strasbourg tribunal’s jurisdiction over a decade ago. The court has ruled against the Armenian state on more than 60 occasions to date.
In 2015 alone, it awarded 230,000 euros ($250,000) in damages to individuals whose rights were found to have been violated by Armenian government, law-enforcement or judicial bodies. Several more such rulings were handed down in the course of last year.
“In every case where the European Court rules that an individual’s rights in Armenia were violated we must … hold an internal inquiry to see to what extent a particular prosecutor is to blame for that violation,” Davtian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. Other law-enforcement officials conducting criminal investigations will also face “legal consequences” in such cases, he said.
“We will thereby seek to increase [investigators’] sense of responsibility,” added the chief prosecutor. He stressed that internal inquiries would look into every violation of the due process detected by the ECHR, including unjustified pre-trial arrests of criminal suspects.
Armenian law-enforcement authorities routinely keep criminal suspects in custody pending investigation. Davtian’s predecessor, Gevorg Kostanian, warned earlier this month that this long-running practice strongly criticized by human rights groups may put the authorities at odds with the ECHR. Kostanian, who represents Armenia in the ECHR, said that the Strasbourg-based court has recently adopted stricter requirements for pre-trial arrests of people in the Council of Europe member states.
Armenian courts usually refuse to release suspects on bail or otherwise before their trials. They also rarely acquit defendants or rule against various government bodies.