A few days ago, in the second reading, the parliament fully adopted the legislative proposal to amend the Criminal Procedure Code submitted by the Government, which provides an opportunity to establish a practice to reduce detention as a precautionary measure as much as possible
According to Srbuhi Galyan, Deputy Minister of Justice, who presented the bill in the National Assembly, this will allow the courts to reject motions to choose detention as a measure of restraint in all cases where it is possible by law.
The lawyers have repeatedly raised the issue that the detention is not proportionate. From the beginning of the 2000s until today, detention as a precautionary measure has been used in Armenia too often, sometimes aimlessly. In many cases, even the pre-trial authorities cannot explain why the person is in custody.
For lawyer Gevorg Gyozalyan, who specializes in criminal cases, this is “another change.” According to him, detention in Armenia is still used wrongly, and the problem is not only with the law and the law enforcement officials, but also with the society.
“People think that if a person is arrested, he is already guilty. The government must explain to the public that arresting a person does not mean anything yet, his guilt can be proved only by a judicial act entered into force,” Gyozalyan told Forrights.
The lawyer recalls: during the previous administration, when the issue was raised, the system assured us that if they change the law, everything will be fine. According to him, unfortunately, today’s authorities have also taken the same path.
These legislative changes leave an unserious impression on Georgy Gyozalyan. The lawyer notes that a step may have been taken at the legislative level, but the problem in this case is not in the law, but in the law enforcers – judges, prosecutors, investigators.
“If the mentality does not change, if the investigative bodies have to continue to arrest again and again, then let them change the law ten times, it’s all the same, it is hopeless. We have no shortage of legislative changes, but I cannot remember a law that made a serious breakthrough in public relations. It is easier to change the law than to use the existing tools. The law will have a positive effect only if we see the real result,” the lawyer says.
According to lawyer Arayik Papikyan, however, the law has more positive arguments than objections. It should be noted that bail is already a separate measure of restraint and the preliminary investigation body can already use it freely.
The lawyer, however, has some concerns about the law. According to him, the investigative bodies feel certain uneasiness to use bail as a precautionary measure: they have to be able to overcome this stereotype in themselves.
“How ready are the investigators to apply such a regulation?” If we take into account the bad practice formed over the years, when there was an opportunity to choose a precautionary measure that did not deprive a person of freedom, the pre-investigation bodies continued to avoid it and take the responsibility. They left that lever on the shoulders of the prosecutor or the judge, as if they wouldn’t raise any doubts or their actions would not be interpreted in other contexts. They were molded and continue to remain molded,” the lawyer told Forrights.
According to Arayik Papikyan, if the institution of using bail did not justify itself, then one more danger arises: the defense side is deprived of the most important and necessary tool. If previously the defense applied to the court for bail, now, if the investigator does not apply such a regulation and applies to the court to choose detention, the defense is deprived of a motion to apply for bail in court.
“This is already unfavorable for the defense, as the court cannot apply a regulation that is under the jurisdiction of the preliminary investigation body,” says Arayik Papikyan.
It should be added that the law also provides for the extension of the grounds for the application of bail, making it permissible not only to ensure the presence of a person at the disposal of the body conducting the proceedings, but also on any grounds laid down in Article 135 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The bill was passed with 97 votes in favor and 1 against. The minimum threshold for the use of bail was set at 200,000 drams, giving the opportunity to personalize the amount of bail applied to a person, depending on the type of crime.