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Local Human Rights Organization Prohibited from Monitoring Prisons

The Helsinki Association for Human Rights contacted the Armenian justice minister for permission to monitor and visit penal institutions in Armenia as part of the second stage of the program on the human rights situation in the country; however, the request was denied. This news was conveyed by Helsinki Association for Human Rights President Mikael Danielyan in a press conference in Yerevan today.

The refusal was sent by Arsen Babayan, head of the public relations department of Armenia’s penal institutions division at the justice ministry.

“Furthermore, the summary of the findings of the monitoring conducted by your non-governmental organization in 2010 caused some objective complaints among several prisoners and detainees, the prison service administration, and various strata of society. Based on the above, we inform you that carrying out the second stage of the project presented to the RA justice ministry penal institutions division is deemed counterproductive,” reads the letter from the justice ministry addressed to Danielyan.

“Until 2009, they didn’t allow us to enter the prisons and when, in 2009, we published a report in which we described the prison situation without [actually] entering a prison, because the authorities were so stupid that they had imprisoned a human rights defender and he described what was going on in the prison — that’s how the monitoring was carried out. [The late] Arshaluys Hakobyan spent 4 months in prison and was conducting monitoring for us. And we said, see, we’ve gone in without going in; if you want us to publicize [news] again, we can publish even worse things without getting in,” said Danielyan.