Recently, both the human rights activists and the convicts themselves have been regularly alerting about the need to change the regime of lifers and fulfill the requirements of the law.
However, neither the statements of human rights activists nor the life-threatening protest forms of the prisoners do not lead to any results.
The Prosecutor’s Office continues to reject applications for mitigation of life imprisonment with arbitrary decisions, often without explanation, not compling with the law adopted in 2019.
According to this law, a lifer who has behaved exeplary, can be transferred to a semi-closed correctional facility after serving 15 years, and to a semi-open facilty after 18 years in prison, can work, then return and stay in the penitentiary only at night.
In late September and in October, the prosecutor’s office made decisions to continue the sentences of five lifers. Three lifers, Aram Petrosyan, Alik Grigoryan and Armen Ter-Sahakyan, who have spent more than 20 years in prison, went on an indefinite hunger strike, demanding that the prosecutor’s office transfer them to a semi-open regime.
Extremely drained and wearied, they eventually ended their hunger strike, not reaching any results.
We xontacted one of the hunger strikers, Aram Petrosyan, who has been held in Armavir penitentiary since 2002, through one of his relatives. We wanted to know what they were going to do now, how they were going to make the deaf and dumb prosecutor’s office finally listen to them.
Aram Petrosyan shared his judgments with us, then he called us from the prison phone. During a short conversation, he expressed his opinion. Aram Petrosyan considers that the tightening of the detention regime is a punishment that worsens his condition, so it cannot be applied without any violation and well-grounded justification, without a substantiated and proven notification of decision to acquaint the convict with it.
“The supervising prosecutor violates this principle by arbitrary – discriminatory decisions, abusing his official position, he decides the fate of many people. He distinguishes application of law between those who are sentenced to life imprisonment and those sentenced for certain period of time. But he should treat everyone equally. This is discrimination against lifers, especially if we take into account that we have stayed longer in prison, we have higher correctional standards than the others,” Aram Petrosyan told us.
According to him, these illegal decisions of the prosecutor deprive him of the right to reapply for regime change, because if the convict applies again, the new, positive characteristics do not matter in his behavior, but the old violations – “phone discovery during the search”, “ribaldry”, “non-participation in sporting events” are repeated in each new decision.
During a telephone conversation with Forrights.am, Aram Petrosyan said that the programs “criteria for determining the degree of re-socialization” were approved three years ago. “There have been no such standards or programs before, so we, of course, could not have participated in them before. Not participating in these programs can not be a proof that we are not improved; there was simply no way of measuring our degree of correctedness at that time. This is very simple. And then, if we start evaluating the behavior of a lifer during these three years, then the past violations should not be taken into account as the good behaviour is not taken into account, or the same violations should not be repeated from decision to decision. What happened in the past cannot describe a person now. Supervising prosecutors have no psychological education, they do not observe the person, or at least assign the observation of the person to specialists with relevant education, before giving an opinion about him. The opinions of the supervising prosecutor are very subjective and biased,” says the convict.
Aram Petrosyan wrote letters of protest to the government and the Prime Minister. But all the letters eventually go back to the same prosecutor Isakhanyan who oversees the legality of punishments and coercive measures, or to Charkhifalakyan, the head of the relevant department of the prosecutor’s office, who rejected the convicts.
It turns out to be a vicious circle, which has been rooted in our law enforcement system since the times of the Soviet Union and has not changed until today. The prosecutor in charge of the prisons and the head of the Department of Punishment’s Legality of Compulsory Control of the Prosecutor’s Office themselves, against whom the convicts complain to their superiors, receive complaints against them. It is clear that they do not and would not admit their wrongdoings. Otherwise, after making one or two mistakes, the prosecutor will simply be expelled from the system. As a result, decisions to tighten the detention regime remain unchanged.