Arthur Sakunts, a human rights activist and member of the public monitoring group in the penitentiary institutions, considers the ban on visiting Arthur Vardanyan, whose health is in extremely critical state, “an arbitrary interpretation of the law.”
“This is an arbitrary interpretation of the law, because the understanding of the “visitations” cannot be related to the observer group. We are not visiting, we are inspecting. This is a wrong, more arbitrary interpretation of the law,” the human rights activist tells the Forrights.am.
Nona Navikyan, the Head of the Public Relations Division at the Penitentiary Service, asked why Artur Vardanyan in the Yerevan-Kentron penitentiary had not been able to meet with public observers and MP Naira Zohrabyan, answered: “The court has imposed a ban, that’s why they have not been able to meet.” At the same time, she stated that the prohibition also applies to observers.
Recently, the office of the Human Rights Defender has alerted about the extreme condition of Artur Vardanyan’s health, noting that he needed to be transferred to a civilian hospital. On February 19, Arthur Vardanyan, calling the hot line of the Ombudsman’s office, reported that his health condition worsened, he was unable to use food for 12 days, had a weight loss, a general weakness in his body, difficulty moving, and frequent vomiting and bleeding.
“We have been deprived of the opportunity to see the man and listen to his complaints through our mandate. I think that the rights of Artur Vardanyan to be heard were violated,” said human rights activist Artur Sakunts. “The mandate of the monitoring group has been recognized by the state as legally binding; it is called for the protection of the rights of detainees. This means that the detainees have the right to appeal to the observation group as well.”
During the interview with us, Artur Vardanyan’s attorney Levon Baghdasaryan, speaking about the response of the penitentiary administration, told us that, regardless of however vague the law, “the basic law is the Constitution, and the case law of the European Convention gives the answer. Accordingly, the NA deputy is not restricted to visit the detainee in accordance with the law. As to the observer, I think, it is only regulated by the internal regulations and legislation of the Penitentiary.”,
The Ombudsman mentioned that he had not filed a motion against the ban as the court sessions were postponed and they were not taking place.
“My husband hinted that they wanted to kill him with poisoning”
Ashkhen, the wife of Artur Vardanyan, the leader of the Armenian Shield organization, who is accused for the Nork Armed Forces case, spoke of the extreme condition of her husband’s health during an interview with Forrights.am. “In last 14-15 days, Arthur Vardanyan is unable to eat due to diseases related to his stomach and intestines. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which is intestinal inflammation, erosion. He is hungry but unable to eat involuntarily because of constant vomiting,” said the woman.
According to the wife, Vardanyan got the Crohn’s disease in prison two years ago. “It’s been two years since Arthur Vardanyan has fever. I cannot tell if it started due to food or poisoning. My husband hinted at time that they wanted to kill him with poison. I do not know, it has been through drugs or through food, I cannot tell,” said the woman. In the beginning, when Vardanyan was just detained, there was an intention to abolish him. I have heard that he should be eliminated.”
According to her, they did not understand the illness of Arthur Vardanyan in the “Hospital for Convicts” and only this summer he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in a civilian hospital. The doctor warned that he should be hospitalized and needed a specialist’s treatment. “If continued like this, he will die within five days,” she told us.
It should be noted that the wife was not allowed to visit her husband for 3.5 years, even during his illness. Perhaps just because of recent public awareness, on February 22, the penitentiary allowed her to take care of her husband on a wheelchair.
“My husband has been in custody for 3.5 years without a court sentence, while other defendants who were detained with the same charges are released from detention. The sixth petition for dismissal of Vardanyan’s case has been rejected. They do not consider anything,” complained the prisoner’s wife. “The authorities keep declaring that there are no political prisoners in Armenia. In that case, who is Arthur Vardanyan? What is his crime?” askes the wife.
“If they do not protect a sick person and let him die in the prison, how are they different from the previous authorities?”
For Arthur Vardanyan’s wife, it is shocking that the amnesty affected at least a part of the members of the Sasna Tsrer organization (semi-terrorist roganization), but had no impact on her husband, “…when there was violence in the case of Sasna Tsrer, there were victims, but Artur Vardanyan was detained only for alleged intentions,” noted the woman.
Let us remind that, according to the materials of the criminal case, Arthur Vardanyan was the leader of an alleged armed group. The group, according to the accusation, planned to crash the President Serzh Sargsyan’s plane in 2015, capture the buildings of state institutions and seize the power. The defendants do not accept the charges.
“If they do not protect a sick person, how are they different from the previous authorities? The fact is, the government lets this man to die in prison. Why should he have been detained until now, when all people accused under the same articles have been freed? There is a particular discrimination in his case. The prosecutor objected, he said that my husband, who was in a wheelchair, could be dangerous when released, and Judge Bektashyan keeps postponing the trial for 3.5 years,” complained Akhshen, assuring that there was no reason to hold Vardanyan in such condition under arrest as there is no indictment, and everyone under the same case is released from custody.