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Police Ill-Treatment of Detained Persons Still a Problem in Armenia, CPT Report Says

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) yesterday published a report on its October 5-15, 2015, visit to Armenia, stressing that ill-treatment of persons in police custody remains a problem in the country, despite “an improvement in this area.” 

“The  delegation  received  a  small  number  of  allegations  of  police  ill-treatment,  most  of  them referring to excessive use of force upon apprehension, which would suggest that there had been an improvement in this area. The delegation, however, did gather other indications, including of a medical nature, that the phenomenon of ill-treatment by the police was not entirely eradicated,” the CPT report said, adding that the procedure for recording injuries on persons brought to police detention facilities did not properly perform the function of preventing ill-treatment, failing to record the explanations of the detained persons as to the origin of their injuries. “Such examinations routinely took place in the presence of police officers who had brought in the person [and] the health-care staff did not attempt to assess the degree of consistency between any such explanations that were given and the objective medical findings.”

According to the report, the legal safeguards against ill-treatment (notification of custody, access to a lawyer and information on the aforementioned rights) were operating adequately once the police custody was formalised and duly recorded; “The safeguards, however, were not applicable in cases where persons were 'invited' to come to the police for 'informal talks' (the purpose being to elicit confessions and/or collect evidence) and had to stay at police establishments for several hours or even up to two days, before being formally declared a criminal suspect and informed of their rights (and thus enabled to exercise them).”

During its visits to four Armenian prisons (Armavir and Vanadzor prisons, Nubarashen Prison, Yerevan-Kentron Prison), the report said, the CPT delegation did not hear any allegations of ill-treatment by staff from inmates, and the staff-prisoner relations “appeared generally free of visible tension.” At the same time, the delegation observed “unacceptable” material conditions of detention and overcrowding at Yerevan's Nubarashen prison; “The prison was severely overcrowded and in a state of advanced dilapidation. Most of the cells at Yerevan-Kentron Prison remained dilapidated and overcrowded too. The standard cells at Vanadzor Prison were generally well lit and ventilated, and adequately equipped; however, many of them offered only cramped conditions. As regards the new Armavir Prison, the cells were not overcrowded and were well lit and suitably equipped, though the absence of efficient ventilation was a problem in the cells, the showers and the kitchen. However, signs of wear-and-tear were already clearly visible in the operational units, although the prison had only been in operation for some eight months.”

Health-care  services  in  the  prisons also remained inadequate, the CPT said; “There were problems with access to specialist  care,  especially  psychiatric  (while  there  were  many  inmates  in  need  of  such  care, including lifers). There was also a serious shortage of medication, with a heavy reliance on inmates’ families.

“At the Central Prison Hospital, the delegation observed a very limited treatment regime, lack of occupational activities and generally poor material conditions on the psychiatric ward. Further, the CPT reiterated its view that it is not acceptable to accommodate somatic patients together with the psychiatric patients.”

During its visits to Yerevan's Nubarashen Psychiatric Medical Centre and the Gyumri Mental Health Centre, the CPT delegation did not receive any allegations of ill-treatment of patients by staff and observed that inter-patient  violence  did  not  appear  to  be  a significant problem at either institution. However, patient accommodation at both hospitals “was bleak, dilapidated, impersonal and lacking privacy,” while the rooms at the Gyumri Centre also appeared overcrowded.

“Concerning safeguards, the delegation noted that none of the civil psychiatric patients at the Gyumri Centre and just two at Nubarashen Hospital, accommodating over 300 patients, were the subject of involuntary hospitalisation under the civil mental health legislation. However, significant numbers of patients appeared to be de facto deprived of their liberty in both establishments; they stated that, although they had signed that they agreed to voluntary admission, they did not actually wish to remain in the hospitals or receive treatment,” the Committee said, insisting that persons admitted to psychiatric establishments voluntarily “should be provided with full, clear and accurate information, including on their right to consent or not to consent to hospitalisation, and on the possibility to withdraw their consent subsequently and leave the establishment whenever they want.”

Read the full report.