Under a law passed in 2019, lifers who have served 15 years in prison can be moved to a semi-closed correctional facility if they show positive behavior, and after 18 years in prison they can be moved to the most lenient, semi-open regime, which means they stay in detention only at night hours.

Forrights.am’s observations, which we have been carrying out since 2019, show that the competent authorities are applying it reluctantly. Even if decisions were made to ease the regime of a lifer, they were canceled after a short time. That was the case with Artak Alekyan, Armen Ter-Sahakyan, Artur Mkrtchyan.

Even for convicts who have spent 20-25 years in prisons, the Ministry of Justice, the Placement Commission, and the Penitentiary Service were reluctant to apply the mentioned provisions with most absurd reasons, such as for the penalty received years ago for blasphemy (Armen Ter-Sahakyan’s personal case), or for not participating in sports events in 2006 (Artak Alekyan’s personal case).

Whereas, according to the Correctional Code, that sanction is considered void after 6 months and it cannot be a basis for the Placement Committee to negatively assess the person’s behavior.

In response to Forrights.am’s written request, we received the following data from the Department of Correctional and Probation Policy Development of the Ministry of Justice:

In the period from 2019 to 2022, 14 life-sentenced prisoners were transferred from a closed correctional institution (hereinafter referred to as the Institution) to a semi-closed institution; 16 life-sentenced prisoners were transferred from a semi-closed institution to a semi-open institution; 2 life-sentenced prisoners were transferred from a semi-open institution to an open institution.

It turns out that the regime of 32 life detentions was changed in 3 years, but only two people were transferred to an open institution in three years, and only one person, Arsen Artsruni, was released after being transferred to an open institution in three years.

Let’s note that we are talking about convicts who spent 22-25 years in the detention facilities. 2 transferes to open regimes in 3 years and 1 release — this is the indicator of the application of new legislation and it is catastrophically low. It turns out that the lifers were given the opportunity to change the regime in order to misguide the international community and human rights organizations.

According to the data of the Ministry of Justice, only 3 life convicts were paroled in 3 years.

This proves that the outwardly democratic government continues the tradition of the former regime and has placed an internal, invisible and undeclared ban on the release of lifers. This is despite the fact that there are almost no recidivists among life convicts. They are considered the most successful group on the road to correction.

Syuzan Simonyan

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