Human Rights Protection in Prisons in 2015
From a rights protection perspective, the prisons in Armenia have seen a subtle improvement this year, which, though, is not enough for experts to state that problems are solved.

The Media Center held a discussion on the human rights protection in prisons in 2015. The speakers included observers of Group Conducting Public Monitoring of Penitentiary Institutions and Bodies of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia Ruben Sargsyan, Robert Revazyan, and Sergey Gabrielyan; Hayk Kochinyan, Head of the Analysis and International Partnership Department of the Criminal Executive Agency, RA Justice Ministry; and Mikayel Zakharyan, Head of the Legal Department of the Criminal Executive Agency, RA Justice Ministry.

Ruben Sargsyan spoke on the complete operation of the prison in Armavir. “It is the most important step forward this year. Another positive shift is how the Justice Ministry and the Criminal Executive Department opted for a more open and collaborative working environment. Still, overcrowding in prisons remains a big issue and Nubarashen Prison is a vivid example. Parole system in Armenia lacks clear regulations,” said Sargsyan. Inmates keep complaining about the health care service in prisons.

Rober Revazyan spoke on granting parole to lifers. “Parole system for lifers does not actually operate in the country. Inmates are rarely taken to semi-closed regime after a 10-year imprisonment or from semi-closed to the semi-opened regime. And there are few employment-focused projects,” said Revazyan.

Drug addicts and homosexual inmates suffer discrimination, Sergey Gabrielyan said. “Homosexual inmates are held in special cells with bad conditions. They are assigned the most humiliating tasks as cleaning toilets, floors, shoes, cells or taking out garbage. They cannot have meals in the commissary as others do. Even their dishware is separated. They are totally isolated. One cell is renovated while the other ones are in a disastrous state,” said Gabrielyan.

Hayk Kochinyan told the journalists that overcrowding in prisons will end in 2016. “The Armavir Prison will house 1200 inmates. I cannot agree that the health care service has poor quality. In 2015, 66 thousand inmates got treatment, with 700 getting hospital care. In 2015 10 inmates got compassionate release,” Kochinyan said. 16 lifers were taken from closed to semi-closed regime, Kochinyan added.

The Government is currently developing a policy to end the overcrowding in prisons next year, Mikayel Zakharyan said.

“This year the authorities have decided to establish Hrazdan Prison to house 80 inmates. It is intended for Kotayk and Gegharkunik residents. With respect to parole, the system requires clear criteria to exclude any biased approach,” Zakharyan said.

Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator

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