“I was made disabled and they want to get rid of me.” The staff of the Nubarashen penitentiary tortured the detainee

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Karen Hovhannisyan, a former employee of the Panther Security Service, has been in custody for about three years. He is accused of brutal killing of 28-year-old Marine Danielyan on August 30, 2018, in one of the houses on Araratyan Street in Yerevan. Karen Hovhannisyan has not admitted his guilt so far. “There is no forensic examination to prove that I committed the murder,” says Karen Hovhannisyan.

 According to him, he was beaten by the Shengavit police in order to extort a confession from him. The torture continued in the detention center.

In 2019, when he went on a hunger strike demanding a review of his detention, he was beaten and tortured by Nubarshen penitentiary staff. It happened on the 27th day of the hunger strike. After that incident, Karen Hovhannisyan became a second-degree invalid.

On June 30, Karen Hovhannisyan gave shocking testimony to human rights activist Zhanna Aleksanyan, who visited him. He said that when he was on a hunger strike in Nubarashen, he was tortured on a daily basis. “There were times,” says Hovhannisyan, “when one person came; there were times — two or three. What should a person on a hunger strike do? Once they woke me up, it was the 27th day of the hunger strike, they came in, I woke up, they cursed, and I cursed, they attacked me, beat me with their hands and feet. I cannot say how many people there were: I was on the ground, face down. Then I fainted. Seeing that my condition was getting worse, they called an ambulance but asked me to refuse to go to the hospital, saying, ‘Well, we are humans, it can happen with any of us.’ The ambulance doctor saw that I had a stroke. I was constantly fainting… I woke up in the intensive care unit of Erebuni Hospital, with bruises and wounds all over my body.”

The detainee was in such a condition that no hospital admitted him, not even the Convicts’ Hospital, as doctors would have to record the injuries.

Eventually, he finds himself in a storage room at Grigor Lusavorich Hospital, where old, damaged equipment was stored. He stays here for 7 days without any medical help. “I continued to go on hunger strike there,” said the detainee. The prosecutor visited the detainee and promised to reconsider the case, but after a while Hovhannisyan was informed that the preliminary investigation was over, the case was sent to court without showing him the materials.

Hovhannisyan, who is already confined to a wheelchair, has been kept in the convicts’ hospital for two and a half years. After a year and two months, Karen Hovhannisyan was given second degree disability, but recently a new medical and social commission visited him, based on the conclusion of which he was deprived of that degree.

Karen Hovhannisyan petitioned for his release from detention, as he has diseases incompatible with imprisonment. He was examined. Doctors have registered numerous injuries and pathologies: 3rd degree hypertension, 2nd degree contraction, MRI examination revealed a cerebral stroke, the cardiologist concluded that the heart is in a risky and crisis state. On July 14, Karen Hovhannisyan underwent tests at Erebuni Medical Center. The conclusion was that his liver was inflamed and his spleen was swollen.

“I have been trying for two years to prove that the diseases were caused by beatings,” says Karen Hovhannisyan.

He reported the beatings and torture to law enforcement officials. The SIS informed us that a criminal case had been filed against Shengavit police for beating Karen Hovhannisyan, but it was dropped. The case of torture by Nubarashen penitentiary staff is being investigated by the Penitentiary Center. Karen Hovhannisyan is convinced that the investigators are doing everything to eliminate the traces of the crime committed by the employees of Nubarashen penitentiary.

“I had an MRI scan twice, and the disk [with results] was lost both times. The histories of my illnesses are changing. An expert examination has been appointed by the court, the first question of which is whether my illness is compatible with detention or not. I am afraid that all my medical records will be falsified so that I will not be released from detention. They made me disabled and they want to get rid of me. I declare that I am innocent,” said Karen Hovhannisyan.

The Penitentiary Service tries in every way to cover up the crimes committed by its employees, to prevent the spread of information about them, and reveal those crimes.

One of the ways to prevent it is to complicate the access of human rights activists and journalists to the penitentiary institution and to delay it in all possible ways.

Two months ago, human rights activist Zhanna Aleksanyan, responding to the request of Karen Hovhannisyan, a detainee in the Armavir penitentiary institution, applied for a permit to visit the penitentiary. After many refusals, she managed to enter the penitentiary, where after waiting for an hour, she finally met the detainee.

The visiting rooms were occupied by penitentiary staff. The management of the penitentiary provided the entrance space of the toilet of the institution for the meeting of the human rights activist with the detainee. The staff did their best to disrupt the meeting. They regularly invaded the area, made loud noises, tried to be present ostensibly for “security reasons.”

Syuzan Simonyan