The health condition of Vagharshak Khostikyan, who has been on an indefinite hunger strike for 36 days in “Nubarashen” penitentiary institution, deteriorated yesterday. The employees of the institution provided first aid, after which Khostikyan was taken to the “Hospital of Convicts” penitentiary.

For the convict who already had health problems any kind of hunger strike was contraindicated, but Vagharshak took such an extreme step in the struggle for his freedom. The court has been postponing the parole hearings for a year and a half for various reasons:

“They procrastinate senselessly, they do not say a reason, they do not hold normal sessions. He already has the positive character letters given by the mayor of Ijevan and the head of the institution, he has no disciplinary penalties, although they write wrong things and attribute penalties he never received. Probation says, work to earn points, but they do not provide that opportunity; the Nubarashen penitentiary does not have job opportunities. They force to earn 28 points, but they do not provide the necessary conditions to collect them,” Khostikyan’s sister-in-law, Lilit, told Forrights.

The convict scored 25 out of 28 points required for early release, saying that the institution does not enable the convicts earn points․

“They demand and, in the meantime, do not provide the necessary opportunities,” Lilit is indignant.

The rapid reaction group of the Ombudsman’s Office regularly visited the convict and was in contact with the representatives of the Nubarashen subdivision of the “Penitentiary Medical Center”.

“Taking into account the fact that Khostikyan is on hunger strike, the fact that his health condition has deteriorated, on March 25, 2021, a corresponding letter was addressed to the RA Minister of Justice. The letter raised issues related to the need to transfer the convict to a correctional facility or a medical facility for inpatient medical care, as well as to conduct regular social and psychological work with him,” the Ombudsman’s office said in a reply to Forrights’ inquiry.

According to Nina Karapetyants, President of the Helsinki Association of Armenia, the current problem is global, while instead of solving it, they make a positive-negative distinction, which has nothing to do with real life. According to the human rights activist, the Probation Service demands more from the convict than the institution is able to provide an opportunity of it.

“The convict has to go through a series of tests for the required character letter and scores necessary for early application, which creates insurmountable obstacles in the case of a number of institutions. The desire to study or work often becomes unattainable for convicts, because, say, Nubarashen does not have those conditions, in many cases there are no jobs. The convicts only suffer in this illogical chain,” the human rights activist said in her interview with Forrights.

Certain steps have already been taken to solve the problem. Months ago, human rights activists met with a number of judges from the Probation Service, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the program. Karapetyants mentions that, to his surprise, these problems are being pointed out by them too:

“I am happy to mention that the mistakes in the legislation or legal acts were mentioned by the judges and probation officers themselves. During the meeting, an agreement was reached to separate the existing problems and to give solutions to them as soon as possible. The rights of convicts should not be violated because of this or that problem.”

Roza Vardanyan

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