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Shutting Down Convicts’ Hospital ‘Will Not Eliminate Corruption Risks’ in Penitentiary Field

At a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Armenia’s justice minister Arpine Hovhannisyan proposed to either close down the “Hospital for Convicts” penitentiary and provide appropriate medical services to prisoners in civilian hospitals or to reorganize the institutions and provide there only certain types of specialized medical aid. The government accepted the minister’s initiative, and now an ad hoc committee will be called to decide the fate of the Convicts’ Hospital.

Speaking to Epress.am on the matter, Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor office head Arthur Sakunts, however, expressed his conviction that shutting down the institution will not solve the problem of corruption in the penitentiary field.

The human rights advocate said he was particularly concerned about the fact that the decision on transferring prisoners and convicts to a civilian hospital will be made by the justice ministry’s criminal-executive department; these decisions, according to Sakunts, can be delayed and have unpredictable consequences.

“Sure, the changes will positively affect the quality of healthcare services, but the corruption risks that exist in Convicts’ Hospital will not be eliminated. Moreover, the decisions [to transfer prisoners to civilian hospitals] might be influenced by subjective factors. For instance, [the criminal-executive department] might decide that [the prisoners] do not actually need to be treated in a civilian hospital, or the medical aid might be rendered as a result of certain agreements, which is fraught not only with corruption risks but also threats of putting pressure [on prisoners] in certain matters,” Sakunts said.