“Is the investigative committee sure that all the prisoners went to the front line?”. Expert

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The Investigative Committee of Armenia proposes to apply amnesty to persons suspected of, accused or convicted for committing minor or medium-gravity crime, who participated in the 44-day Artsakh war. The draft has been put into circulation on the joint website of draft legal acts publications.

Arshak Gasparyan, head of the Social Justice NGO and a psychologist of criminal justice, says that the state is using this amnesty to try not to reveal the shortcomings it made during the war.

“The state is making a gesture. Convicts who wanted to go to the border are “better” than people who were arrested or convicted of minor crimes but did not want to go to the border. This is considered a humanitarian step, but from the beginning it was not right to send the convicts to the border, as it has been repeatedly stated that thousands of people went to Artsakh as volunteers, but they were not provided with the necessary items and were not given ordered to carry out combat operations.

If soldiers leave their allotted territory without an order, it is considered fleeing the battlefield. It is a crime under our Criminal Code. Now the government understands that the state has not fulfilled its obligations to the soldier, has not provided weapons, armor, protective helmets, has not given relevant instructions, maps… Now they understand that these people should not be prosecuted because it is the state’s fault that people fled instead of fighting. It could be expressed not only by fleeing, but also by disobeying orders, non-statutory behavior, and so on. “If cases are filed, it is possible that these people will make revelations that may not be suitable for the government,” says Arshak Gasparyan.

The amnesty will also apply to persons suspected, accused or convicted of committing minor, medium-gravity crimes before September 26, who participated in the military operations unleashed by the Republic of Azerbaijan towards the Artsakh Republic from September 27 to November 9, 2020.

Arshak Gasparyan considers this unfair towards those suspected, accused or convicted for committing crimes of same magnitude who did not take part in the war. The expert emphasizes that the criterion for early release should not be participation in the war, but the provisions of the law.

“The convict who committed the crime should serve the sentence as long as it was intended for him; if that person had positive behavior, should be released early, in accordance with the established procedure, but not because he is more patriotic than another prisoner who stole 250 thousand drams and did not want to go to the border voluntarily.

The return of a convicted person to society must be conditioned by the extent to which he or she can reintegrate into society and refrain from criminal behavior. Going to war not only does not prevent people from committing a crime, but also for people who are not ready to return to society situations may arise where they will commit more serious crimes,” said the expert.

38 people in penitentiaries were released to take part in the 44-day war. The precautionary measure, detention of 12 detainees was changed and 26 convicts were released on parole. According to the information provided by the RA Ministry of Justice, from September 27 to November 9, 2020, 1038 applications for participation in military operations were submitted to penitentiaries of the Ministry of Justice. 491 of the applicants were detainees, 547 were convicts. Artak Gasparyan notes that no public control was exercised over the process of sending prisoners to the front, as state bodies did not keep proper statistics.

“The state does not have the leverage to monitor what people who went to war from prisons have done. Is the Investigation Committee sure that all the detainees went to the front line; did they perform their tasks on the front line; did they perform the task effectively, because the state does not have such a control mechanism? No one knows how many of them were killed, how many were injured, how many returned to prisons,” he said.

Narek Kirakosyan