Yesterday, a video was posted on NewsMedia’s YouTube page showing police officers trying to extort testimony from a citizen, torturing him with a respirator and a baton.
Ashot Aharonyan, head of the Police’s Public Relations and Information Department, told Forrights that Acting Chief of Police Arman Sargsyan had given instructions regarding the incident. “Inspections are carried out in the police internal security. We will inform you further about the results.”
Advisor to the Prosecutor General Gor Abrahamyan also said that the video has become the subject of investigation and has been sent to the RA Special Investigative Service in order to prepare materials and determine the process.
“The alleged crime of torture of a citizen by police officers took place in one of the police stations of the Republic of Armenia. The RA Special Investigation Service is preparing materials on the alleged crime of torture,” reads the official statement released by the Special Investigation Service.
The investigation will releave when the incident occurred, but the point that such action by police is not news to human rights defenders, is already a fact.
Journalist for Human Rights NGO President Zhanna Alexanyan states that extorting testimony through torture is widely spread in Armenia and continues to this day.
“The Prosecutor General’s Office is working diligently to expose torture. As long as the cases of torture are concealed and possibly concealed by the Prosecutor’s Office, torture will continue to take place in Armenia,” Alexanyan said in a conversation with Forrights.
Nina Karapetyants, President of the Helsinki Association of Armenia, also voiced the inaction of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Special Investigation Service. She noted that they have voiced about torture and violence at the police stations for years, but the situation has never been disclosed and no appropriate assessment has been made:
“Both the Prosecutor’s Office and the Special Investigation Service have never paid attention to the violence in the departments. In the best case, the case was dropped, and in the worst case, a criminal case was initiated. There is still a policy in Armenia to support one another and take one’s friends under their wings. The police and the prosecutor’s office are guided by unwritten laws,” the human rights activist declares.
Yesterday’s video case for Karapetyan was different by the fact that if all the other cases were done in secret, without any other witnesses, this video just shows what is actually happening in the police:
“There have been many much worse and brutal situations, but there was simply no way to prove them. They regularly announce that there will be cameras all around the police station, but they will still find a corner where violence will be used, and it will remain in that corner,” Karapetyants says.
According to human rights activist Vardan Harutyunyan, not only those who torture in the video should be punished, but also their bosses, because if the relevant bodies were in place [operating properly], such incidents would have stopped happening long time ago:
“Yesterday’s video is the biggest testimony that the policy of forcibly extorted testimony is still going on. In our reality we must rule out the existence and morals of such cases. If at least one such case is reported within one or three years, it is already too much and condemnable. This case needs to be taken seriously at the highest level of authority,” he said.
To exclude such behaviors, Harutyunyan recommends explaining to the police, strengthening the educational wing:
“It would be desirable for those outside the police system to be involved in these activities.”
The death of 36-year-old Edgar Chatinyan, that happened months ago, is still fresh in the public memory. According to the family members of Edgar, who died at the Armenia Medical Center on April 8, he died of brutal beatings, intimidation, and then of swallowing dangerous drugs due to police officers’ threats, and indifference of doctors.
A criminal case has been launched at the SIS on charges of torture by police. Speaking to Forrights, Marina Ohanjanyan, spokeswoman for the Special Investigative Service, said that the case was currently under investigation, with no suspects.