IRCT concerned about ongoing police violence in Armenia

The IRCT is deeply concerned by reports of ongoing police violence, torture and ill-treatment of citizens in Armenia and calls on the authorities to refrain from further violations and to conduct impartial and effective investigation of all allegations in accordance with the international standards in the Istanbul Protocol.

The reports of torture come after Armenia saw an armed uprising and hostage taking in the capital Yerevan on 17 July, resulting in large scale public gatherings and ad-hoc protests supporting political change in the country. According to IRCT member centre in Armenia, the Foundation Against the Violation of Law (FAVL), Armenian police reacted to the peaceful demonstrations with disproportionate use of force against the protesters. A number of videos have been published, showing protesters being beaten and ill-treated during the demonstrations.

FAVL has provided a detailed account of the unfolding events and the negative impact on human rights.

There are also allegations of severe beatings and torture in police custody and during transfer to police stations. In one case, around 150 people were apprehended and taken to a police regiment and detained in a sports hall without access to water, food, toilet or fresh air. In this particular incident a number of torture allegations were recorded. A deputy of the municipal council of Yerevan suffered a concussion as a result of the police brutality while others were spat on by police and forced to kiss the sole of the police officers’ shoes.

Adding to this, the frequent reports of denial of legal and procedural safeguards, including access to a lawyer, is very concerning. There have also been measures taken to prevent journalists from covering the ongoing protests including excessive use of force and the seizure and destruction of the journalists’ equipment. These acts greatly contribute to creating a climate of impunity, which may facilitate torture and significantly complicate investigations and victims’ pursuit of reparation.

“Sadly the situation in Armenia is not new. Numerous reports by the European Committee on Prevention of Torture (CPT) have provided evidence of ongoing torture by the Armenian police, also before the current protests started. Despite decades of police reform funded by the EU, OSCE and other regional and international organisations, this is a clear indication that torture is a systemic problem that has not yet been eradicated in Armenia. Until that happens, it is crucial that Armenia conducts a prompt and effective investigation of all torture cases, brings perpetrators to justice and provides reparation and rehabilitation to all victims,” said the Head of the European Affairs office of the IRCT, Mushegh Yekmalyan. 

The IRCT will continue to monitor the situation closely with FAVL and will do its best to support victims of torture by providing rehabilitation and documentation of cases of torture for further investigation and redress.

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Mika belonged to a period that retains a persistent nostalgia of the irresistible desire to break through the wall, sustained by the memory of the first generation of Soviet dissidents. For him, protecting human rights was about being on the frontline where things happened, where government abused the rights of citizens and disregarded the law.