Suren Krmoyan, RADeputy Minister of Justice, Gohar Simonyan, Head of Torture and Ill-Treatment Prevention Department, Human Rights Defender of Armenia, Arthur Sakunts, Head of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office, Robert Revazyan, Advocate at the Helsinki Committee of Armenia, participated in the discussion.
On February 7, the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia passed a vital initiative to simplify the parole system. As responsible government agencies say, as a result of the changes, the parole system will be simpler and clear criteria will be set, which will be on the basis of an independent commission and court reasoned decisions.
Suren Krmoyan presented specifically what changes would occur in the parole system. “The institutional system is simplified; we had a three-tier system - decision-making penitentiary, independent commission, and court. We cut a tier here, the penitentiary will not participate, will not dismiss or suffice motions,” Krmoyan said.
Concluding the overview of the reforms, the Deputy Minister said. “We tried to raise questions and the decision-making bodies should answer these questions.”
Artur Sakunts said that these reforms were long overdue because the current system does not carry out the tasks efficiently and contains big corruption risks. As a reply to the question whether the proposed system satisfies the requirements of the civil society, Sakunts said. “In terms of the approach, yes, because the court appeal process is clear, besides the parole applicant's rights are more protected, so the legal procedures based on which the application should be discussed are predictable.”
On the other hand, Artur Sakunts had objections about the criteria based on which the convict who applied for parole will be assessed. In his opinion, “recidiv criterion” should be removed at all since it is contrary to the principles of the rule of law.
Krmoyan disagreed saying that it is the responsibility of the corresponding officials to ensure the public security. “We should take into account that a person has been convicted 8 times for the same offense, if he is released he will robe again, or cause bodily injury.”
Gohar Simonyan said that the Ombudsman office actively participated in the elaboration of these reforms as we have been receiving numerous complaints from prisoners and human rights defenders.
“The complaints related to the parole system are the most repeated complaints. There are cases when citizens of another state, for instance, the Republic of Georgia, request to discuss their issue in order to support their transfer. They say that the conditions of confinement are not better in Georgia than in Armenia. The sole purpose of leaving Armenia is that there is a more real mechanism of the parole system.”
Robert Revazyan referred to the risks of existing and proposed systems. “Risks are associated with the fact that there is no program for the treatment of prisoners, work needs to be conducted with the prisoners. This document will not solve a problem if there is no intervention in this area. Convicts are still not aware of the treatment process, what actions he should do. The psycho-social activities with the prisoners should be more active.”
The lawyer believes that there is a problem in terms of clarity of criteria in the proposed system. “For example, the fact of receiving an incentive is considered to be criteria but it is not clear when a convict deserves encouragement,” the lawyer said.
To conclude the discussion, the participants agreed that it was necessary to reform the parole system. But if there is no basis for the treatment of prisoners in penitentiaries, the system is likely to work again incompletely.
The representatives of the civil society think that the reform of the system should be considered as a link in the chain, the effectiveness of which would be higher if all the other chains are firm.
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Lilit Arakelyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”
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