No Positive Systemic Changes in Armenian Prisons
There haven’t been any positive systemic changes at penitentiary institutions (PI) of Armenia during the last 10 years. The changes were localized but the systemic problems such as criminogenic manners, low level of medical care, overcrowding at prisons, total implementation of arrest as a preventive measure and corruption still remain.

Experts mention that the availability of communication means for prisoners is still a problem at correctional institutions, especially at PI, and they also mention the ensuing corruption risks of such a situation.

“This is a very important issue and needs a regulation as it causes a lot of corruption risks. It is not allowed to keep cell phones in prisons but many prisoners use this means of communication which would be impossible without awareness of prison wardens. This is a closed chain of corruption which is beneficial to both prisoners and the prison wardens,” said Artur Sakunts, Chairman of HCV Vanadzor office.

On December 15 the Media Center held a panel discussion entitled “Human Rights at Penitentiary Institutions in 2014” during which the experts presented the cases of human rights violations at penitentiary institutions and the evaluation of the actions of law enforcement agencies.

The participants of the event included: Yeranuhi Tumanyants, Head of the Torture Prevention Department of the Armenian Ombudsman’s Office; Vahram Abrahamyan, Head of the Duty Service Department of RA Police, police lieutenant colonel; Artur Sakunts, Chairman of HCV Vanadzor office; and Ruben Sargsyan, Head of the Group of Public Observers Conducting Public Monitoring of Penitentiary Institutions and Bodies.

The problem of medical care at prisons, Sakunts thinks, should be resolved by the Health Ministry rather than PI. “It is also important as in that case complaints regarding the medical care quality will be addressed to a certain authority responsible for the quality,” he assured. Artur Sakunts also pointed out the relationship of the prison staff and prisoners as a problem, highlighting the importance of PI officers’ qualification. “Armenia does not have a specialized educational institution for PI employees.”

Yeranuhi Tumanyants, Head of the Torture Prevention Department of the Armenian Ombudsman’s Office, hopes that in 2015 the problem of providing health care will be resolved and another prevention measure will be chosen for PI prisoners with health problems as fast as possible.

Tumanyants highlighted the problem of overcrowded prison cells where prisoners sleep in turn. “After the operation of Armavir PI this problem should be partially resolved but the institution has not been handed over yet,” she mentioned, adding that it is important to minimize the application of arrest as a widespread precautionary measure in order to reduce overcrowding. “According to the data of 2013, the court didn’t enforce arrest as a prevention measure only in 3% of the cases. In the other 97% of cases the court satisfied the request of the investigative body,” explained Yeranuhi Tumanyants.

The Nubarashen Prison is the most overcrowded among 11 PIs of Armenia. “There are 153 more prisoners than the prison can house,” mentioned Ruben Sargsyan, Head of the Group of Public Observers Conducting Public Monitoring of Penitentiary Institutions and Bodies. Anyway, Sargsyan believes that the first issue prisoners complain about is the lack of clear regulation regarding parole. “It is a big mistake not to have a possibility of appealing the decisions about parole if the procedures are not violated,” he noted.

Vahram Abrahamyan, Head of the Duty Service Department of RA Police, police lieutenant colonel, informed that there is collaboration with the Ministry of Health but only with respect to the Police. “The Police and the health care sector collaborate. In 2014 during the first 9 months 321 reports were received about the registration of physical injuries at detention facilities,” he explained and emphasized the importance of a special educational program for PI officers.

“There are positive changes here as there have been cases when the court did not satisfy the requirement of the investigative body to choose the arrest as a prevention measure. In my opinion, such cases will increase,” concluded Vahram Abrahamyan.



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