The non-governmental organization Journalists for Human Rights receives numerous alerts about the torture of prisoners in the penitentiary institutions of Armenia.

They are related to torturing, humiliating people, especially people with health problems, not providing them with proper medical care on time. Based on the alerts addressed to us, it is possible to claim that the officers of the penitentiaries accept these citizens as criminals (regardless of whether there is a court verdict or not), not noticing that they may have many health problems.

Recently, wrote about 54-year-old Andranik Sargsyan, who has spinal tuberculosis and is suffering from periodic pains in a penitentiary, and he continuously faces problems when using the toilet.

In the Armavir penitentiary institution, 45-year-old Armen Simonyan was also treated inhumanely, as a result of which the citizen became 36 kg from his 96 kg and is now in the intensive care department of a hospital.

Simonyan, who had many health problems, was arrested on charges of drug use in May 2022. The health problems in the “Armavir” penitentiary have deepened, but no representative of the penitentiary has noticed it, or did not want to notice it.

Armen Simonyan’s sister, Margarita Vardanyan, tells us that they showed so much indifference that the disease related to the liver (cirrhosis of the liver) worsened and, during another acute attack and fainting, there was no other way but to transfer him to a civil hospital. But then, they immediately returned him to the penitentiary institution without any treatment.

“The diagnosis of doctor Hasmik Levonovna in the hospital became evident that the tests revealed that his condition was incompatible with the conditions of detention in the detention center; he had to be taken to the hospital to be monitored and prescribed treatment. But even the doctor’s order was not a reason to transfer him. My brother had fainted from acute pains. They realized that everything was really bad transferred him to a civil hospital, but he was taken back again very soon. Several times we tried to take him from the Armavir penitentiary to a civil hospital for treatment, but the penitentiary did not agree; they said that the detainee is under the discretion of the judge, which may or may not release him,” the detainee’s sister Margarita Vardanyan told claiming that her brother was tortured by the officials of the penitentiary institution.


The penitentiary institution pointed out by Vardanyan is the Penitentiary Medical Center. The deputy head of that institution, Naira Babayan, says that she is a doctor and jointly coordinates relations with the media. But the doctor-press spokesperson never answers journalists’ questions in order, she finds every reason to avoid them and, when she does answer, the answers are very rude, in a scolding style.


This time, too, she refused to talk about what happened with Armen Simonyan, reasoning that “we do not provide any information over the phone.” We offered to make a written inquiry, but this time she said that they do not disclose information about a person’s health condition or can disclose if the person’s consent is obtained.


Anyway, Margarita Vardanyan says that her brother’s condition was so bad that he was transferred from Armavir to the Convicts’ Hospital penitentiary. “It got so bad that they drew water from the lungs. They had to inject blood. We applied to the office of the human rights defender and with their intervention a commission was formed. It’s already the third month, the commission yet did not give its conclusion, based on which they will decide whether to grant him open detention or not,” says the sister.


Before the commission will decide how to determine Armen Simonyan’s fate, he is now in the intensive care unit of the civil hospital. The sister says, “he has no strength left, his arm is weakened, and he is unconscious.”


“It is several days since the doctor has been asking the convicts’ hospital for the documents about his illness, but they do not provide them, as if there are no documents. Naira claims that Armen is healthy, just suddenly fainted. And she says that, being herself a doctor. Meanwhile, the doctors at the civil hospital say that he has developed anemia. He had cirrhosis of the liver and lung problems, and these diseases worsened in the conditions of the penitentiary. If you see my brother, you will be afraid,” says Mrs. Vardanyan.

Another problem is that Armen Simonyan is in the intensive care unit under the supervision of the escort battalion. Sisters are not allowed to approach their brother or take broth to him as advised by the doctors. He is fed with food from the penitentiary.

“The doctor says, ‘Bring some meat broth unified with a blender so that we can feed him.’ And is the prison food they provide processed with a blender? We are not allowed to enter the hospital. Or to take diapers. We have to take them to the penitentiary, they would seal them, then take them to the hospital. Would we pass something to that sick a person with a diaper? This is a cynical attitude, inhuman behavior, torture towards a citizen. We, the sisters, want to see our brother who maybe we will see for the last time,” the patient’s sister says.

Hasmik Hambardzumyan

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