Armenian law-enforcement authorities have brought criminal charges against a senior police officer who was seemingly caught on video brutally beating a man together with three other individuals.
The blurry video was first posted by the NewsMedia.am on its website and widely circulated by Armenian media in November. It showed four men punching, kicking and swearing at the victim. One of them then forcibly put a gas mask on his head while another started hitting his shoe soles with a truncheon.
The Armenian police were quick to launch an internal inquiry into the scandalous video that caused outrage among viewers and prompted serious concern from the country’s human rights ombudsman.
A police statement issued afterwards said one of the violent individuals shown in the footage turned out to be the head of the police department of Chambarak, a small town in Armenia’s northeastern Gegharkunik province. The officer, Narek Simonian, was suspended as a result, the statement said, adding that the police are now trying to identify the other men involved in the violent interrogation.
A separate, criminal investigation was launched by another law-enforcement body, the Special Investigative Service (SIS).
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General reported on Monday that the video depicts the interrogation of a man who was taken to a police station in Yerevan in November 2008 on suspicion of an attempted burglary. In a statement, it said that Simonian and several other policemen subjected the man to “inhuman, degrading and brutal treatment” after he refused to confess to the crime.
According to the statement, Simonian has been charged with serious abuse of power as part of the ongoing “comprehensive, full and objective investigation.” Investigators are doing their best to identify all individuals responsible for the torture, added the prosecutors.
Ill-treatment of criminal suspects has long been commonplace in Armenia, with law-enforcement officers threatening and beating suspects to extract confessions. They have rarely been prosecuted for such illegal practices until now.