A government bill enacted as part of those reforms three years ago called for surveillance cameras to be installed inside police stations -- and their interrogation rooms in particular -- across Armenia by 2023. This was supposed to prevent police abuse of detainees which had long been widespread.
Only ten police stations were equipped with such cameras afterwards. They were switched off in last July on then national police chief Vahe Ghazarian’s orders.
The police told the country’s Office of the Human Rights Defender that the cameras are no longer needed because under another law enacted last year suspects detained by the police must now be interrogated by another law-enforcement body, the Investigative Committee.
Daniel Ioannisian, a civic activist monitoring the police, dismissed that explanation. Ghazarian simply wanted to make sure that his subordinates can continue to torture detainees, he claimed, adding that the illegal practice has therefore continued unabated.
Ioannisian noted that as recently as on February 10 two lawyers representing a juvenile suspect claimed to have been beaten up by officers at a police station in Yerevan. The police denied the allegations, saying that the officers themselves were insulted and assaulted by the lawyers.
Ghazarian, who is reputedly a childhood friend of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, was promoted to head
Armenia’s newly re-established Interior Ministry in January. Ioannisian’s Union of Informed Citizens (UIC) and two other non-governmental organizations strongly criticized the appointment and pulled out of a government body coordinating police reforms in protest. They accused Ghazarian of systematically obstructing those reforms.
Ghazarian has not publicly responded to the accusations so far.