Members of the Group of Public Observers Arayik Zalyan, Ani Vardanyan and Hasmik Harutyunyan, as well as Head of the Group Ruben Sargsyan spoke on the parole issues and presented statistical figures on the parole cases over recent three years. In addition, the speakers published proposals which will regulate the system and solve a number of problems.
‘The administrations of penitentiary institutions should give only a character of a convict whereas according to the current regulations some of the parole references are choosily submitted to the independent commission without exact criteria to be based on,’ noted Arayik Zalyan, member of the Observers’ Group, adding ‘in penitentiary institutions there exists an inner, not written instruction to refuse the parole applications pertaining to crimes under several articles of the Criminal Code (104, 112, 113, 175, 176, 178, 258, 259, 266, 268, etc.). The administrations of penitentiary institutions overturn the applications without even filing them to the independent commission.
‘Both the administrations of penitentiary institutions and independent commission lack precise criteria for granting paroles,’ said Hasmik Harutyunyan, emphasizing that the primary aim of a parole is to facilitate a convict’s social integration, as well as prevent new crimes.
With respect to the statistics of parole refusals in recent years, Ani Vardanyan mentioned that in 2011-2013 the number of applicants increased while decrease is observed in the number of approved applications.
‘5468 convicts applied for parole out of which 960 applications were submitted to the independent commission in 2013. The latter approved 273 applications while the court granted parole only to 261 convicts,’ listed the speaker comparing this year’s figures with the data in 2011 when 895 out of 5216 applications were presented to the independent commission which approved 303, with 291 ultimately being approved by the court.
Hasmik Harutyunyan spoke on the proposals of the group one of which referred to the inner order and restrictions in penitentiary institutions. Harutyunyan believes that the restrictions should be abolished; precise criteria of granting parole should be defined; and individual plans should be developed in collaboration with psychologists.
‘Independent commission must include various specialists. Moreover, every member of the commission must visit penitentiary institutions and meet convicts in person,’ noted Hasmik Harutyunyan.
Presently, independent commissions are established based on the Armenian President’s decrees and generally comprise representatives of military and law enforcement agencies.
Arayik Zalyan and Ruben Sargsyan singled out other problems in penitentiary institutions. In particular, they claimed that there exists overcrowding in almost all penitentiary institutions in Armenia; most convicts receive food from outside; and the number of medical workers is not sufficient.
‘Parole requested by those convicted for life imprisonment is of great concern since their applications are overturned without considerable reasons,’ added Ani Vardanyan.
The speakers concluded the press conference, noting that convicts voice their problems during private conversations but do not file complaints.