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Shurnukh Criminals to Advantage from the Collective Pardon

Goris investigative department has closed the case of collective assault against LGBT persons in Shurnukh village. 

On August 3 2018, 30 people attacked the house in Shurnukh village where 9 young people were visiting, manhandled them, sweared at them, threw stones at them and literally expelled from the house and the village. The reason for the assault was announced their sexual orientation.

Investigator Smbat Balouyan closed the earlier instigated criminal case on the ground of the collective pardon issued in November this year.

Pink Armenia human rights organization reports that the law enforcement body has not ensured appropriate implementation of the rights of the victims and has not given an opportunity to be familiarized with the case materials before closing the case. Goris investigative department sent an email notification to the victims on November 27th at 15:30 that at 9:00 on the next morning they should visit Goris police department to read the case materials. Email notification is not a formal notification prescribed by law and such a short notice makes the exercise of the rights of the victims almost impossible. Should the victims have been properly informed, while being familiarized they could have detected flaws, and based on them they could have made appropriate motions.

It is noteworthy that the decision to close the case was made on the day the victims were invited to be familiarized with the case materials which makes it evident that the invitation was only a formality, while the decision to close the case had already been prepared without considering the position of the victims.

The haste by which the law enforcement body has closed the case gives room to doubt that it was prejudiced against the case during the preliminary investigation phase. We find this to be a repetitive behaviour demonstrated by law enforcement bodies when the victims include LGBT persons.

The statements of those who committed the assault, of their supporters, the mayor of Shurnukh, as well as video and audio materials available at Pink Armenia and the police, the explanations provided by the alleged offenders at the police make it evident that the assault and physical and psychological violence, as well as the hate speech were motivated by hatred against the imagined or real sexual orientation of the victims.

The fact that the assault in Shurnukh was not an ordinary offence, but a crime on grounds of a certain personal trait the victims have, should have been evident to the investigative body. However, the case was opened and further investigated under Criminal Code’s Article 118 on beating which is punishable by a maximum 2 months of imprisonment.

It is important to note that the lack of regulations criminalizing hate speech in Armenia does not allow to criminally and legally qualify acts committed on grounds of intolerance and hostility.

Therefore in the given case, the constitutional rights of the victims have been violated not only by the procedural misconduct of the investigative body, but also as a result of legislative gaps.

Pink Armenia plans to take all necessary steps to reclaim justice, to have the legislation incorporate appropriate regulations and to prevent future similar abuse of LGBT persons’ rights on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.