The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for a “prompt, thorough, and effective” investigation into reports that four arrested members of an armed Armenian opposition group were beaten up during their ongoing trial in Yerevan.
The high-profile trial stems from the July 2016 attack on a police base in Yerevan’s Erebuni district that was launched by gunmen affiliated with Founding Parliament, a radical opposition group. The gunmen laid down their arms after a two-week standoff with security forces which left three police officers dead.
The 18 leading members of the armed group went on trial in Yerevan in late May. Four of them claimed to have been brutally attacked by police officers immediately after a tense court hearing on June 28.
During the hearing, two of them -- Areg Kyureghian and Mkhitar Avetisian -- were removed from the courtroom after arguing with the presiding judge and security personnel.They as well as two other defendants -- Arayik Khandoyan and Gagik Yeghiazarian -- told their lawyers afterwards that they were beaten up in the court building’s basement before being transported back to their prisons.
Representatives of the office of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, visited Khandoyan, Avetisian and Yeghiazarian in custody and confirmed various injuries sustained by them.Nevertheless, the Armenian police denied the beatings.
“Ill-treatment of detainees is strictly prohibited in all circumstances – it’s that simple, and no amount of anger at the crimes these men are charged with, or tension at the trial, can justify physical abuse of the defendants,” Giorgi Gogia, HRW’s South Caucasus director, said on Sunday. “The authorities have a clear-cut obligation to promptly and thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice.”
Despite the police denial, another Armenian-law-enforcement agency, the Special Investigative Service (SIS), said last week that it will investigate the allegations.
In a statement, HRW welcomed the SIS announcement, while expressing concern at the fact that police officers involved in the alleged ill-treatment are still on duty in the courtroom.“It is positive that the authorities have initiated an investigation into the incident,” Gogia was quoted as saying. “But to be credible, the investigation has to be effective, meaning that it needs to be thorough, impartial, and capable of identifying abusive officials and bringing them to justice.”
According to Yeghiazarian’s lawyer, Tigran Yegorian, the same police team again escorted the defendants to the court for the most recent session of the trial on July 6.