Doctor of Political Science, publicist Arkady Vardanyan is one of the political prisoners of Serzh Sargsyan’s regime. He was convicted in 2013 on absurd charges of poisoning his friend’s father, and was released in November 2018 through amnesty. For 4 years, the political scientist was a resident of “Armavir” penitentiary institution, and before his release he spent about a month in “Vardashen” penitentiary institution. During that time, he studied the prison conditions in detail and came to the conclusion that there is an unsanitary situation in the penitentiary institutions of Armenia, which creates favorable conditions for the spread of COVID-19.

Arkady Vardanyan offers Nikol Pashinyan to declare an amnesty. “Prisons need to be vacated by about 80 percent. Only the most dangerous criminals should be left there, who have committed crimes against the state and the nation, and concentrate them in one prison. This will be a tangible step,” says Vardanyan. He made the offer before, but received no response from the authorities.

Arkady Vardanyan offers Nikol Pashinyan to declare an amnesty asked the political scientist a few questions.

— Decisions to release convicts are being made in different countries of the world today. Don’t you think that if we take such measures, say, release those who have committed minor thefts, the crime will increase sharply?

— Now we are in a situation where it is not the time to think about increasing crimes. We are facing a more serious danger. We have to think about it, we have to settle the primary issues, and in general, we have to regulate the life. If life is in order, crime will reduce. What causes crimes? Poverty, right? People do not just go and steal, right?

 — You were released in 2018. You say that there are unsanitary conditions in “Armavir” penitentiary, but don’t you think it is possible that there have been changes in the last two years, two years that have passed [since the “revolution”]?

 — Hardly.

  — And what is the most dangerous thing?

 — For example, there is no ventilation system in Armavir penitentiary. Although, Armavir is a newly built prison. During the construction, half of the money was stolen according to the evil tradition created in our country. After all, the money was provided by Europe. They did not build a proper foundation, nor did they install a ventilation system. That is why there is an unsanitary situation in Armavir penitentiary.

 — Are medical supplies and kitchen utensils being renewed?

 — No, there is no such thing. Everything is old.

— If Nikol Pashinyan called you now, what would you tell him?

— Firstly, he will never dare to call me. Secondly, calling citizens is cheap populism. Doesn’t he know that 700,000 people in the country live in poverty? We have 700,000 poor people.

P.S. We asked the press service of the Ministry of Justice to answer whether the ministry was going to take measures to protect the prisons from the coronavirus and to unload them. Especially, given the fact that a statement came from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michel Bachelet, who has said that many countries are making decisions to unload prisons.

Press Secretary Lusine Martirosyan said that the ministry was not authorized to answer this question and advised to contact the commandant office. However, later did not answer our many calls.

Syuzan Simonyan

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