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Armenian Police Officers Convicted of Torture Released, Promoted

Under the European Convention on Human Rights, a person convicted of torture cannot be released on parole or pardoned, but there is no such wording in Armenian law, said chair of the human rights organization Rule of Law Artak Zeynalyan during a discussion organized at the Media Center in Yerevan to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture today.

Zeynalyan said that the state must ensure the right to a lawyer from the moment of arrest. This, according to him, has a direct relationship with not being subjected to torture. 

"If a person says he was was subjected to inhumane treatment and he was alone, [that is,] he was not provided with an attorney, then the burden of proof rests with the state. This is an important fact, which is not enshrined in Armenia[n legislation]. I want to talk about the term 'torture.' The Convention states that if a person was convicted of torture, he should not be released on parole or have the right to amnesty — this is an integral part of the prevention of torture," he said. 

Zeynalyan recalled the case of Vahan Khalafyan. The NGO chair was convinced that Khalafyan died as a result of police beating, but police officers put on a performance: one of the officers was convicted, but he was granted amnesty and released early. 

Zeynalyan, citing another example, said even in cases where the government machine is overcome and torture is proven, it does not become cause for appropriate punitive action. He was referring to the Virabyan v. Armenia case at the European Court of Human Rights, with which though the Government of Armenia used all its resources, the ECtHR acknowledged the torture. 

Virabyan's torturer, current Yerevan Police Chief Ashot Karapetyan, not only was not held accountable, but also received a job promotion, and the sponsorship of Republic of Armenia Police Chief Vladimir Gasparyan.