The Media Center hosted a discussion on life sentence and possible reinvestigation of criminal cases in Armenia. The speakers included: Zaruhi Mejlumyan, investigative journalist, Head of the Armenian Program of Innocence; Robert Revazyan, member of monitoring group of public control over criminal-executive institutions and bodies under the Ministry of Justice; and Fenya Kocharyan, convict Artur Kocharyan’s mother.
Earlier over 50 inmates of a Yerevan prison serving life sentences went on an open-ended hunger strike, demanding that their cases should be reviewed. The lifers and their relatives have sent open letters to President Sargsyan, the prosecutor-general, the ombudsman, the relevant commission at the Ministry of Justice.
“On October 12 the lifers wrote a letter to the President and proposed possible solutions and mechanisms through ten points. They have been voicing their problems for years, and the bill drafted by Davit Harutyunyan back in 2011 has been pending at the Parliament for four years. The bill fixes a transition to semi-closed regime after a 15-year imprisonment and to the semi-opened regime after 18-year imprisonment. If the bill had been adopted, now over 50 lifers would serve their sentence in a semi-opened regime,” Mejlumyan said.
The judicial authorities are not willing to reinvestigate old cases and correct possible legal errors, Mejlumyan believes.
“And there are innocent people in our prisons, and I can openly make such a statement.”
The discussion also featured the screening of Zaruhi Mejlumyan’s documentary which told the stories of eleven lifers.
“I studied 11 cases in the judicial archives for the documentary and three of the eleven cases revealed new circumstances. I, thus, found the prosecutor, defender involved in these trials. Two cases were filed to the Prosecutor’s Office but got turned down,” Mejlumyan said.
Currently, real evidence is still destroyed in Armenia though “the 2012 Criminal Code defines physical evidence shall not be destroyed in case of crimes against human life and health.”
Robert Revazyan prioritizes the political will when reinvestigating archived cases. The present laws, he believes, make it possible to have a fair trial.
“Why cannot these cases be reinvestigated? If reinvestigated, the cases would disclose that the prisoners are wrongly convicted, and new criminals would have to be found, with their accessories. Public trials, appeals would ensue which is an obligation tough to fulfill,” Revazyan said.
Fenya Kocharyan, mother of lifer Artur Kocharyan, said all the relatives hope for the President’s positive decision.
“We have jointly filed an application to the President’s office requesting to reinvestigate our children’s cases, and we demand and expect an instant solution from him. And if President Sargsyan refuses to solve this issue, our children will continue the hunger strike, and parallelly, we, parents, will go on a sit-down strike,” Fenya Kocharyan said.
The Media Center sent invitations to the Judicial Department, Justice Ministry, Prosecutor’s Office and Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs at NA but the invitations were rejected.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator
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