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Convict’s Father Blames Yerevan Prison for Son’s Death

In April 2015, 39-year-old convict of Nubarashen prison Serob Gevorgyan committed self-harm acts, by injecting himself with saliva and cutting his veins. Only four days after the incident was the prisoner transferred in critical condition to Yerevan’s Erebuni hospital, where he subsequently died. The deceased’s father, Samvel Gevorgyan, claims that his son died because of the prison management’s negligence.

“He was a person, not an inanimate object; losing him matters, someone has to therefore answer for my son’s death. The prison had an obligation to look after my son,” Gevorgyan said in conversation with Epress.am. He added that several days before the incident, the deceased’s wife tried to hand her husband a cell phone when visiting him in prison. “But they were caught in the act, and he must have felt bad because he then slit his wrists.”

Following the self-harm episode, the convict, according to his father, phoned home and said he was feeling unwell but prison staff was doing nothing to help him. Moreover, Gevorgyan urged his father to inform the office of the Armenian Human Rights Ombudsman about his situation. At the office, Samvel Gevorgyan said, he was assured that Ombudsman’s staffers had already appealed to Nubarashen administration to ensure that the prisoner was provided with proper medical care.

“But then I talked to my son and he said that they had done nothing. He said the pain was killing him and that his condition was only getting worse,” Gevorgyan told Epress.am.

After this conversation, the prisoner did not call home for several days, and the family soon found out that Gevorgyan had been taken to the intensive care unit of Erebuni hospital. The family was told that the condition was stable but that they could not see him since they needed a special permit from police due their son being a prisoner. 

“I begged them to let me see him; I was even willing to beg on my knees. But they did not allow me to. Instead, they told me to go home and bring food, that he was fine,” the deceased’s sister, Qnarik Gevorgyan said. She added that a few hour after their leaving, the hospital informed that the patient had been taken to the morgue. 

When the father appealed to law enforcement bodies to recognize his son a victim and him – the victim’s legal successor, he was told that a criminal case into the prisoner’s death would not be initiated. “They said he had died because of his own carelessness and there was therefore no ground for opening a case.”

According to forensic experts, Gevorgyan slit his wrists and then injected himself with saliva using a pen rod. “That’s impossible. I believe that my son used a syringe, and when prison officials asked where he had gotten the syringe from, he refused to say, so they left him in pain for as long as it would take him to confess. He didn’t say, I believe, and was left with no help,” the deceased’s father said.

Samvel Geborgyan is convinced that the entire responsibility for his son’s death falls on prison management for failing to provide him with appropriate and timely medical treatment. The other members of the convict’s family – his sister and his mother- also blame the staff of Erebuni hospital.

“When I saw the bandages on my son’s hands at the morgue, I realized that the bandages had not been changed since the day of his arrival. They would have been in real trouble had I managed to take off the bandages and take photos [of the condition of the wound],” Anzhela Avetisyan, the deceased’s mother, stated.

After the relatives’ appeal, a criminal case was initiated under article 130.2 of the Armenian criminal code (non-performance or improper performance of professional duties by persons providing medical care and health services, which negligently caused a patient’s death.” A forensic examination commission, which was set up as part of the investigation, also revealed that Nubarashen prison officials had failed to provide the convict with appropriate medical care, along with making a number of other violations.

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