4 deaths in 2 months: Armenia is the first country by mortality rate in prison

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2 suicides on the same day, in the same place

Four cases of deaths of prisoners were recorded in Nubarashen and Armavir, two of Armenia’s penitentiary institutions, during the past two months. Two of them were suicides.

“On August 11, 2018, at 04:40, the body of a citizen of the Republic of Moldova V. Gruyan, born in 1976,  was discovered in one of the 5th section cells of the Armavir penitentiary. V. Gruyan’s body was hanging over the cell wall grid.

Necessary investigative and procedural measures are being taken to find out the circumstances of the death of the detainee and the injuries caused to his body.

Forrights received a response on its written inquiry from the RA Investigative Committee that a criminal case has been instituted under article 110 (1) of the Criminal Code of Armenia (threatening, inflicting suicide or attempted suicide by cruel treatment or humiliation of personal dignity with indirect intent or negligence).

On the day of the detainee’s death, Forrights had noted that it received information that a citizen was hanged in his cell, and that before that he had complained of the attitude towards him. To clarify this issue, Forrights contacted the Penitentiary Department, but they denied the news. “The detainee was in his cell,” stated the Public Relations Department.

Gruyan’s mother, however, does not believe her son committed suicide. She notes that her son was unable to commit suicide, and he was killed.

“Vasile was not a person who would do such a thing. We have doubts that a brawl broke out between him and several people at Armavir penitentiary, and my son was killed and then hanged in the 514th cell of the Correctional Penitentiary and it is presented as suicide. Why would he commit suicide when the investigator or the lawyer had told him that he would be released within two days? Before the incident, he told me during my visitation that some people wanted to kill him. I had asked to take him to another cell or under medical care, but, for some reason, the management of the penitentiary ignored my and my son’s requests,” she said.

It is noteworthy that, on the same day, the second case of suicide was recorded in Armavir penitentiary, again in the fifth building. This time, Hamlet H. was hanged with a sheet. The latter regularly made self-injuries as he was dissatisfied with the verdict and demanded a review of his case. He was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment for committing sexual acts with a juvenile.

Prison conditions, intrinsic life, conflicts with cell counters can lead to suicides

By pointing out these cases, we note that the number of self-injuries and suicides in the penitentiary institutions is increasing each year. Studies of the public monitoring group conducting public oversight in penitentiary institutions of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia have found that, in 2011-2016, 25 cases of suicides were recorded in penitentiaries. It is noteworthy that if the number of suicides decreased by 2.3 times in 2012, it increased by the same percentage in 2016, as Hasmik Harutyunyan, the head of the public monitoring group, told Forrights.

As of the other two deaths recorded during the previous two months, here too we can find the “guilt” of lack of proper care. Artashes Hovhannisyan, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, has not yet turned 43 years old. He died of heart attack. The average age of the deceased prisoners was around 50, from which it is clear that death of old age is less probable in these cases.

If we look at poor conditions of the medical parts of the penitentiary institutions, inadequate medication, and improper medical care, we can state that deaths in prisons, if not entirely caused by heart attacks or incurable diseases, to a certain extent are caused by inadequate medical care as well.

“The monitoring also shows that there is a large number of prisoners with cardiac diseases and diabetes who are not properly provided with medication, there is lack of necessary equipment to detect and control diseases, and operative medical intervention is not guaranteed. The numbers also indicate the importance of the problem. According to the official data of the RA Ministry of Health, in 2014-2016, 38 cases of cardiovascular diseases have been registered in the penitentiary institutions of the RA Ministry of Justice,” says the report by the group of public observers conducting public monitoring in the penitentiary institutions.

Recently, RA Minister of Justice Artak Zeynalyan, referring to the suicide cases in the penitentiary institutions, stressed that it was necessary to do everything possible so that the person does not take such an extreme step.

Armenia is in the first place with a high mortality rate in detention facilities

Among 47 European countries, Armenia is in the first place with a high mortality rate in detention facilities. This is evidenced by the report of the Council of Europe’s criminal statistics this week. In general, 70 out of every 10,000 prisoners die in Armenia, which is almost two times more than the average recorded data in other European countries.

Roza Vardanyan

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