Torture Remains a Problem even after the Revolution. Ara Gharagyozyan
26.03.2020
20:02
Yesterday, on March 25, the Court of Appeal partially upheld the appeals of citizen advocate Ara Gharagyozyan and prosecutor Vardges Sargsyan, overturning the Tavush District Court of First Instance's acquittal and acquitting the first verdict of acquittal.

The Media Center talked to Ara Gharagyozyan, a lawyer of the Helsinki Association NGO, on the subject.

- Mr. Gharagyozyan, first briefly present the background of the case.

- The incident happened in 2017. Gerasim Mardanyan is accused of allegedly torturing Zhora Simonyan because he has not yet entered into force, so to say, not to break the presumption of innocence. Jora Simonyan and her brother were taken to the police station on suspicion of tree cutting. According to the indictment, Gerasim Mardanyan, being an official, tortured Zhora Simonyan. This is, by the way, the first criminal case initiated under torture since 2015, which was sent to court. As a result of the Berd trial, Judge Zoya Zakinyan acquitted Gerasim Mardanyan, noting that the fact of torture was not substantiated. Was the aggrieved party not in agreement with this judgment? Forensic examination revealed that Jora Simonyan received injuries at the police station. After leaving the unit, she felt ill and went to the hospital, where injuries were reported. However, the court found the forensic report, as well as the victim and his family untrustworthy, and, on the contrary, found his (Gerasim Mardanyan, Partner-Police) testimony to be unreliable, which the judge found to be inadequate from the point of view of the European Convention. Prosecutor Vardges Sargsyan and I sent the complaint and the case to the first instance for a new investigation since I have not yet received the decision, I do not know to what extent the first instance should be examined. We hope that the fact of torture will be recognized.

- Can the fact that the Court of Appeal partially upheld your appeal be considered a precedent, given the practice whereby victims and their representatives in torture cases are turned around, file complaints, and are again rejected?

-It can be considered as criminal cases either are not initiated on the basis of torture, or the act is re-qualified as a transfer of official authority. Complaints are constantly being made in this regard, criminal cases are in a deadlock, and we are finally appealing to the European Court. This decision of the Court of Appeal was so significant that, as I noted for the first time, the Special Investigation Service initiated a criminal case on torture and sent it to court. Unfortunately, however, our judicial system and courts cannot effectively handle torture cases. The same judge, Zoya Zakinyan, communicated with the victims throughout his trial and displayed his prejudiced attitude and rendered a judgment of acquittal. If this ruling goes into effect, I will appeal to the Supreme Judicial Council in this regard, and judges who make such judgments should answer why torture cases are being investigated. I have to raise the issue of disciplinary liability of a judge.

-You highlighted the work of the prosecutor in the case, you mentioned that he is good enough to defend the charge. When the indictment was upheld by the prosecutor's office, the prosecutor of the provincial prosecutor's office was authorized to defend the case. You were concerned about this, noting that prosecutors in the provinces are under pressure.

- Vardges Sargsyan supervised the investigation of this case. When the case was sent to Berd Court, the Ijevan Prosecutor's Office authorized the prosecutor, it was clear from the first hearing that the prosecutor was constrained and unable to defend his charge effectively. I raised this issue in the press, and I also appealed to the prosecutor's office, which changed its position and the prosecutor overseeing the case defended the indictment in the second trial. As a result, the aggrieved party only advocated for the victim's rights, while often failing to work for the prosecutor, the aggrieved party also assumes the prosecutor's powers and defends the charge.

- There are quite a few cases of torture in Armenia. How do you determine the more or less success of this case as a representative of the victim? Maybe it's a consequence of the victims' persistence?

- Three years have passed since the incident, but the injured party still remains vulnerable. The victim lives in that community, in that village, and they are vulnerable at all times, although the current accused Gerasim Mardanyan's powers are temporarily suspended, they are partners in the police system. That family lives in fear. Even after the revolution, the state does not treat the victims of torture in a special way; there is no rehabilitation or psychological work done with the victim.

- In what way are the victims vulnerable, do they receive threats?

- Members of Zhora Simonyan's family were charged in 2019 when riots broke out in Ijevan over an incident with police. A police officer in charge of Jora Simonyan's case testified against his family members as he saw police officers punching them with stones and hands. Zhora Simonyan's brother was detained for two months, and later detained as a result of the fight was replaced with bail. That is to say, in such situations, this family is constantly vulnerable as the police try to take revenge on them. However, if the victim is not protected, he or she is never aware of the torture case, knowing that they may later be found guilty.

There are many cases of torture, whether committed against a soldier or in a penitentiary institution, that will continue to be a problem until the cases are recognized by the state and their rights are restored.

- No official has yet been convicted of torture.

- Not in Armenia yet, in my opinion, the courts do not have that will yet. Since this article provides for a rather heavy responsibility - 4-8 years of imprisonment, it may be a constraint. But in the end, the facts of torture must be recognized by the courts, otherwise, the ECHR will recognize and there will be constant sanctions against Armenia, and there will be an issue for compensation from the state budget. This issue must ultimately be resolved.

- The Committee on Torture will arrive in Armenia. What records will we have on many cases of torture in Armenia and what impact will it have on your worrying practice?

- I would like to remind you in this respect that the gas canister was extorted 10 years ago, the case is reopened, your (Media Center-Author) role was great too, after the press conference two people were charged. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture had recorded the case, but over the years the state failed to answer where the blood gas was from. The video was revealed after it was published. If the commission comes, many cases will be reported by human rights defenders. Many cases are actually shut down. There is no desire by the prosecutor's office and the SIS to disclose. There are many cases of torture in the army, resulting in deaths that qualify as suicide. It is not our opinion. even if it is a suicide, it is the result of ill-treatment and torture. There are many such cases in closed and semi-closed institutions. Even after the revolution, these problems are not solved.

Full interview and answers to these questions at:https://anchor.fm/media-center/episodes/by-Lilith-Hovhannisyan-ebvjv4 

 

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