“The state is hiding behind the victims”. The Ministry of Justice recommends that the victim’s opinion be considered when granting pardon

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It is several days since the Ministry of Justice has submitted a draft bill on amendments to the law on “Pardon” on the website e-draft.am. The MoJ recommends that the person convicted of a particularly grave crime notify the victim or his/her successor in case of petition for pardon and obtain their position on the pardon request of the convict:

“In the event of a petition for pardon by a person convicted for a particularly grave crime, the Ministry shall notify the victim or his/her legal successor prior to the Commission meeting. The victim or his/her legal successor may submit a written statement to the Ministry within 5 days upon receipt of notification from the Ministry on their acceptance or refusal to grant pardon, ” says the draft.

A few months ago, several life-sentenced prisoners applied for pardon to the prime minister. According to the law, the personal case, the conclusion of the commission, the approval of pardoning or rejection decision are not subject to disclosure and transmission to third parties. But leakage nevertheless happened: one of the aggrieved parties rushed into objecting to granting pardon to the convict, which left no impasse. Nikol Pashinyan refused to grant pardon to convicts.

Last year, when the court was discussing the application for parole of life-sentenced Yuri Sargsyan, the aggrieved party initially objected, then, a few days before the court’s decision, announced that they leave the release of the convict to the court’s discretion.

“It’s very hard for me to say release him and is even harder to say leave him in the prison. I still did not make up my mind. I have great pain in my heart, but I’m not going to take responsibility of leaving somebody behind bars all his life. Let the court decide what is the right thing to do. Let the judgment not be on my shoulders,” said the victim’s successor, the wife of the murdered.

“The state is hiding behind the victims. To what extent is it moral to remind the victims their sufferings one more time?”

Human rights defenders have repeatedly referred to this issue, pointing out that the presence of the victim or his/her successors in the court session or seeing the convict one more time may lead to additional suffering,” Human rights defender Avetik Ishkhanyan mentioned in his interview with Forrights.

The overwhelming majority of judges are hindered by presence of the victims in courts. According to attorney Robert Revazyan, today they are not ready to look into the victims’ eyes and say, yes, the murderer of your relative is released.

“If the state provided psychological and social assistance during these years, the involvement of the victim in the case may have a positive effect on the re-socialization of the convict. Within 20 years, the state should work with the victim’s family and make understand that it is not necessary to consider life-sentenced prisoners as a group of monsters,” said the lawyer.

“The penitentiary must show that, besides keeping a person enclosed in four walls, it has also been able to work with him”

President of “Social Justice” NGO Arshak Gasparyan offers three steps to solve the problem. According to him, at first the convict should be brought closer to the society gradually. The penitentiary must show that, besides keeping a person enclosed within four walls, it has also been able to work with him and prepare for pardon or parole.

According to the human rights activist, the next step has to be to provide prisoners with the right of short-term leaves, which will not only allow them to communicate with relatives, but will also enable prisoners to settle their relations with the victim.

“And, importantly, work has to be done with the victims or their successors. True, this is not the duty of the Penitentiary Service, but this is a problem to be addressed by the penitentiary service. If the service understands that the correction of the convict can in some extend depend on the victim and the relationship with him/her, the Penitentiary Service must do everything to ensure that the prisoner-aggrieved party meeting takes place and helps them both to improve their relations,” Arshak Gasparyan clarified to Forrights and added that the state should understand that the victim’s opinion should be one of the other points of the trial and should not have more significance for the court.

“The state is washing her hands and leaving the victim and the convict in the middle”

For Arthur Mkrtchyan, a life-sentenced prisoner for 24 years, this amendment is simply “absurd” because the state is “washing her hands and leaving the victim and the convict in the middle.”

“If the state has condemned a person, then his future destiny should be determined by the same state rather than the victim side. The state has defended the victim’s interests in the court, judging the person in conviction; after that the victim’s opinion should no longer be decisive. The decisive things are the convict, his behavior, correctional work and its outcome, otherwise it will be lynching,” said Mkrtchyan.

The draft law on such amendment will be posted on e-draft.am website up to July 31 inclusive. The draft resolution should first be approved by the Government, then the Parliament.

Roza Vardanyan

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