The penitentiaries are overlooked and the torture continues there. Human rights activist Zhanna Aleksanyan, President of the “Journalists for Human Rights” NGO, stated this during today’s press conference in the “Media Center”.

The press conference was convened following the alarm raised by the detainee of Armavir penitentiary Karen Hovhannisyan. During the meeting with Alexanyan, he stated that two years ago, when he was on a hunger strike and was in Nubarashen penitentiary, local employees used violence against him, as a result of which he acquired health problems.

Karen Hovhannisyan has been detained since 2018. He is accused according to Article 104, Part 2, Clause 5 and Article 167-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia, of murder with special cruelty and obstruction of a visit between a parent or other close relative and a child.

Today, Zhanna Aleksanyan told details of her meeting with Hovhannisyan, noting that although there had been no obstacles during her previous visit to Armavir penitentiary and she had always been warmly received, an extraordinary situation had arisen in Hovhannisyan’s case.

“About two months ago, when Hovhannisyan was still in the Hospital of Convicts penitentiary, he asked me through his family to visit him, but the request was receiving a very strange response, and the press service of the penitentiary told me that he refused to meet. I felt a negative attitude towards him, and that increased my interest.”

According to Alexanyan, in the end they had to allow her to meet with the convict, “As usually, I went to the chief’s office, the chief’s secretary told me very dryly that the chief was not there, then the deputy chief mentioned that he had not received permission, and kept me in his office for half an hour.”

According to Alexanyan, the meeting was finally organized in the bathroom lobby and another employee was sent to monitor their conversation. “They have left the door opened and and a man was making noises so that our conversation would be disrupted us as much as possible. I had to warn the deputy chief over the phone that we were not allowed to work, after which only that man came out, but then the flow to the toilet started, the door was left open. And they were speaking in an arrogant tone, and I realized that it was all pre-arranged, and the most horrible thing is that the whole staff is involved, the whole system is against one person, which is reminiscent of Soviet times, and it does not suit the Ministry of Justice.”

During the conversation, the detainee said that, on the day of his arrest, he was taken to the police station, where he was tortured, and then, when he went on a hunger strike in the prison, on the 27th day, six people of the penitentiary staff entered the cell, cursed him, to which he responded, and they started to beat him:

“And imagine what resistance a person would have on the 27th day of the hunger strike, who is being beaten. And, who can beat a detainee, if they do not have permission? No one will take such responsibility,” said Alexanyan, reminding that last year a penitentiary violence was reported and former Minister Rustam Badasyan had already stated that it was lawful and proportionate, while the Monitoring Group stated the opposite during its visit to the penitentiary.

“Badasyan did not hand over a good system to Karen Andreasyan; I am very sorry that this situation prevailed during his time. No one has been punished so far, because the Prosecutor’s Office does not reveal any torture, they turn a blind eye to torture and hand over to the Ministry and the Ministry is sacredly fulfilling that duty.”

Referring to the newly appointed Minister Karen Andreasyan, the human rights activist said that during his years as Human Rights Defender he reacted quite harshly to torture․ “Andreasyan is well aware of [the situation in] penitentiaries; he has written many reports, and I hope this situation will change.”

According to Sagis Khachatryan, the lawyer of detainee Karen Hovhannisyan, Hovhannisyan has obtained liver, stomach and high blood pressure problems in prison, which are incompatible with detention.

 “In 2019, when I took over his defense, I was amazed because I had known him before: he was a strong, healthy man, and at that time he was confined to a wheelchair, his right side was weakened, which could be the result of torture or any other intervention.” According to the lawyer, there are significant contradictions in his medical documents, in one of the epicrisis it was written that he was discharged from the hospital with improvement, while, according to the Defender, there is a negative dynamics․

“We even have a medical document, according to which he underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) examination and a conclusion was given, but no such thing happened. He was taken for MRI, but they explained that he was very heavy, and that it is incompatible with the device,” the ombudsman said, adding that an attempt is being made to cover up the circumstance of torture. “Being in prison in such a state of health is already torture,” he said.

According to the lawyer, they have a lot of evidence, and if the relevant bodies find it expedient, if they want to be interested, he is ready to meet them.

It should also be mentioned that the lawyer submitted a report on the crime to the Prosecutor General’s Office, on the basis of which a criminal case was initiated under Article 130 of the RA Criminal Code for obstructing the professional as well as non-professional auxiliary activities of medical workers. According to the court decision, a forensic medical commission has now been appointed to get a conclusion on his health condition.

It should be added also that the “Media Center” had sent an invitation to the Ministry of Justice today, where they replied that the issue was being studied and they could not provide an hasty comment. An invitation was also sent to the Ombudsman’s office, but they informed that they could not participate.

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