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 Thursday, March 14 2019 14:52
Tatevik Shahunyan

Department of State published 2018 Human Rights Report

Department of State published 2018 Human Rights Report

ArmInfo. The US Department of State has published a 2018 human rights report. In the section related to Armenia, the State Department, in  particular, emphasizes that the parliamentary elections were held  with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust  that should be preserved through further election reforms. According  to the document, civilian authorities maintained effective control  over the security forces.

Human rights issues included torture; harsh and life threatening  prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; police violence  against journalists; physical interference by security forces with  freedom of assembly; restrictions on political participation;  systemic government corruption; crimes involving violence or threats  thereof targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex  (LGBTI) persons; inhuman and degrading treatment of persons with  disabilities in institutions, including children; and worst forms of  child labor.  The authors of the document the new government took  steps to investigate and punish abuse, especially at high levels of  government and law enforcement. Pashinyan's government gave new  impetus to accountability for the events surrounding the aftermath of  the 2008 presidential election, in which eight civilians and two  police officers were killed. 

At the same time, the State Department notes that there were no  reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or  unlawful killings. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) expressed  concerns that the government did not promptly and accurately report  incidents of deaths in the army. According to independent (and  separate) monitoring of noncombat deaths by the NGOs Peace Dialogue  and Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor, there were 24 noncombat  deaths reported during the first half of the year. In response to  information requested by the NGO Peace Dialogue, the Ministry of  Defense reported 31 such incidents for the same period. Human rights  NGOs noted that, after years of rejection, the Ministry of Defense  became more open following the May change in government in responding  to requests for information on the number of deaths in the army.  Nevertheless, discrepancies in the government and NGO numbers, partly  due to different classification of what constituted military deaths  by the Ministry of Defense and civil society,

On May 24, Prime Minister Pashinyan dismissed the chief of the  General Staff of the Armed Forces, Movses Hakobyan. Many of the  families of soldiers who died under noncombat conditions, who  continued to demand investigation of the deaths, alleged that  Hakobyan was instrumental in covering up such deaths.  According to  media reports, law enforcement bodies reopened investigations into  some of the older noncombat death cases.

The document also stresses that there were no convictions to  officials who were involved in the practice of torture, unlawful  arrests and drives. According to observers, the police used arrest as  a form of punishment, ill-treatment to obtain evidence.

The report notes that prison conditions were marked by poor  sanitation, inadequate medical care, and systemic corruption;  overcrowding was no longer a problem at the prison level, and was  almost resolved at the cell level, but conditions in some cases were  harsh and life threatening. Prisons generally lacked accommodations  for inmates with disabilities. The government generally permitted  domestic and international human rights groups, including the CPT, to  monitor prison and detention center conditions, and they did so  regularly. 

However, as stated in the report, the government allocated funds for  the repair of penitentiary facilities, allowed prisoners to make  video calls, prisoners were trained in English, computer literacy,  cooking, crocheting and felting, yoga, hairdressing, career planning  and entrepreneurship. The Department of State has listed the  amendments to the Penal Code, the Criminal Code and the Code of  Criminal Procedure as positive changes.

Authorities did not routinely conduct credible investigations nor  take action in a meaningful manner to address problems involving the  mistreatment of prisoners, disputes and violence between inmates, or  widespread corruption>, the report reads. 

According to international organizations and human rights observers,  police and NSS personnel often detained or arrested individuals  without a warrant or probable cause. Human rights organizations  stated such detentions were often a way to begin an investigation,  with authorities hoping the suspect would confess and make further  investigation unnecessary. Between April 16 and April 23, the police  detained 1,236 persons, including 121 minors, in connection with the  "velvet revolution." In many cases, individuals were detained simply  for being at a certain location, regardless of whether they  participated in a protest.

The State Department mentions in its report that although the law  provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary did not  generally exhibit independence and impartiality. t"Attorneys reported  that in the past, the Court of Cassation dictated the outcome of all  significant cases to lower-court judges. According to observers,  administrative courts had relatively more internal independence but  were understaffed, with some hearings scheduled as far ahead as  2020.The authorities generally complied with court orders. Non-  governmental organizations report that judges usually ignored  statements by defendants that their testimony was obtained through  physical violence. For example, human rights monitors continued to  report when evidence was received", the report says.

According to the report, following the post "velvet revolution"  release of certain individuals considered by some local human rights  NGOs to be political detainees, there were no reports of political  prisoners or detainees in the country. Following the "velvet  revolution," many judges released from pretrial detention many  suspects in politically sensitive cases. According to human rights  groups, since no other circumstances had changed in their cases, this  was an indication that, before the April/May events, judicial  decisions to hold those suspects in detention, instead of on bail  were politically motivated.

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