The hunger strike of life convicts in the Sevan penitentiary was stopped today. First, 3 lifers stopped the hunger strike, then everyone else. The Penitentiary Service explains that the reason is the explanatory work carried out with the hunger strikers. However, it is not clear what can be explained to the prisoners who spent 20 or more years behind bars and went through many hunger strikes.
Relatives of the convicts claim that they stopped the hunger strike for health reasons. “Everyone’s health is broken,” Forrights. AM is informed by a relative of the hunger striker. It is also not excluded that pressure was applied against the lifers.
The hunger strike started on November 27. In recent days, the life convicts were visited by one of the deputy commissioners of justice, representatives of the HRD office. “They didn’t say anything special. They just made promises, as always, said that they ask us to give up the hunger strike, that they can make us participate in the adoption of laws, we will show them the loopholes from the inside, as if they don’t know and needed to have shown. At the moment, we are in a state of waiting,” says a relative of one of the hunger strikers.
According to the data released by the Criminal Justice Service, the reason for the group hunger strike was that one of the lifers was refused to be transferred to a lighter regime, the courts also did not satisfy his request, the convict declared an indefinite hunger strike, and others joined him.
The new procedure for the gradual lightening of detention regimes was established in 2019, when the amendments to the Penal Code entered into force and it was established that, with positive behavior, a life prisoner can be transferred to a semi-closed regime after serving 15 years of his sentence; after 18 years can be transferred to a semi-open regime, and after serving at least 20 years, to an open correctional facility. However, in practice, the legislative amendment is implemented with great reluctance.
In the last 4 years, there have been separate cases of regime change, but more often, the sentence control department of the prosecutor’s office has not considered the decisions to transfer to a lenient security zone and returned lifers back to the previous harsh conditions.
One of the relatives of those sentenced to death handed over to us the 14-page open letter of the life convicts addressed to the RA authorities and the public outside the bars.
“We, the convicts, following the old penal code, going through the planned resocialization programs, receiving education, formed a positive behavior, thanks to which we were given the opportunity to serve the sentence in a semi-open regime. But something happened that disrupted our course. On July 1, 2022, the new Penal Code entered into force, which provided for other regime zones and conditions. If under the old code we were serving our punishment in a closed, semi-closed, then semi-open regime, we aspired to an open regime, the new code established new rules of the game. According to it, high, medium and low security zones were defined, which have many sub-zones with strict and mild conditions. There is no big difference between them. They extended our path to freedom. They further hinder the process of easing our detention regimes. Therefore, we consider this change as a legislative act that worsens our situation, which should not have been applied to us. Our constitutional right has been violated,” the convicts write.
Forrights.am was informed by the penitentiary service that the 7 life convicts who were on hunger strike in connection with being moved to a lower security zone in Sevan penitentiary have stopped their hunger strike.
“On November 30, due to health problems, two of the convicts stopped their hunger strike as a result of the explanation work of the penitentiary officials and medical workers.
On December 3, another convict stopped his hunger strike. On December 4, the remaining 4 life convicts stopped their hunger strike after the regular reception by the head of the Sevan penitentiary institution and intensive explanatory work.”