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Armenian Investigators Banning Public Monitors from Visiting Prisoners

In 2016, for the first time in the twelve years of the existence of the group of public observers which conducts monitoring in Armenia’s penitentiary institutions, its members were banned by investigators from visiting prisoners, Robert Revazyan, a representative of the group, said on Tuesday, during the discussion of the group’s report on prisons for 2014-2015. The bans, he added, were implemented mainly to prevent the monitors from visiting arrestees in cases of great political importance, including anti-government Founding Parliament leader Jirayr Sefilyan, former deputy defense minister Vahan Shirkhanyan, members of the Sasna Tsrer armed group and their supporters.

Larisa Minasyan, the head of the Open Society Foundations-Armenia, also condemned the introduction of the bans, observing that not even in 2008, after the post-election clashes, had public monitors been prevented from visiting arrestees.

Deputy justice minister Suren Krmoyan, for his part, urged the other participants to change the focus of the discussion back to the 2014-2015 report and then insisted that when talking about the current year, the speakers should also note “the many reforms the penitentiary system has undergone in 2016.” As for the ban, he added, “[justice ministry officials] are not immune to it either” and have encountered the same problem as the monitoring group when trying to visit prisoners at the Convicts’ Hospital penitentiary.

The deputy minister stated that the issue should be resolved on a legislative level; however, Krmoyan responded negatively when answering a reporter’s question as to whether the justice ministry was planning to introduce a corresponding amendments draft to the parliament.