Armenia Needs Amnesty: Rights Defenders
Armenia must grant amnesty on the occasion of the Armenian Genocide Centennial and 70th anniversary of World War II. With overcrowding and “simply unbearable” hygienic and food conditions in prisons, amnesty may be a life buoy for them, rights defenders say.

Article 89 of the Constitution of Armenia fixes amnesty is granted by the National Assembly on the proposal of the President. Since the collapse of the USSR nine amnesties have been granted in Armenia, a fact which indicates the issues in the judicial and penitentiary systems, rights defenders believe.

Media Center held a discussion on the necessity of amnesty in Armenia, issues and international practice. The panelists included: Artak Zeynalyan, Head of the Rule of Law, NGO; Lusine Sahakyan, lawyer; Hovhannes Hovhannisyan, Chairman of the Committee of Civil Society Development of Public Council; and Avetik Ishkhanyan, Chairman at the Helsinki Committee of Armenia.

“In developed countries amnesty is granted every 20 or 25 years as a humanitarian action on great occasions. These countries do not need frequent amnesties as the justice system works and only those who are dangerous for the public are imprisoned,” Ishkhanyan said.

Artak Zeynalyan commented on the public attitude toward amnesty. Amnesty must be initiated at the people’s will and not for reducing overcrowding in prisons, he is convinced.

Hovhannes Hovhannisyan said: “The justice system in Armenia has problems to resolve. Still, it is a systemic issue, with moral-psychological and social-economic aspects. Convicts complain they do not have a chance to work whereas the Government allocates 8-9 billion drams to keep them.”

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