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HRW: Arbitrary Detentions, Brutal Beatings in Yerevan

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Old 08 Aug 16, 16:09   #1 (permalink)
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Post HRW: Arbitrary Detentions, Brutal Beatings in Yerevan

Authorities Rounded Up, Detained Protest Leaders in Wake of Police Station Occupation

YEREVAN (HRW)Armenian authorities have arbitrarily detained dozens of people linked to the ongoing, largely peaceful, protests and beaten many of them, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Aug. 5. The authorities also have pressed unjustified criminal charges against numerous protest leaders and some participants and denied them basic rights of detainees.

Armenian authorities have arbitrarily detained dozens of people linked to the ongoing, largely peaceful, protests and beaten many of them, HRW said on Aug. 5. (Photo: Photolure)

The Armenian authorities response to Yerevans largely peaceful protests has been excessive and cruel, said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at HRW. The tense atmosphere at some protests is no justification for detaining people arbitrarily, beating them, and bringing disproportionate criminal charges against them.

There have been protests in Armenias capital, Yerevan, almost every night since July 17, 2016, after a group of armed men from a radical opposition group seized a Yerevan police station, killing one policeman and taking several hostages. Before the gunmen surrendered on July 31, public support for them and disaffection with the government grew into a wide protest movement in Yerevan.

The protests have been largely peaceful, with isolated incidents of violence by some protesters. Police in some cases responded to protests with excessive force and with large-scale arbitrary detentions. HRW interviewed victims of arbitrary detention and police beatings, witnesses to the detentions and abuse, and lawyers for many of those detained.

Police beat many detainees, in some cases severely, and in some cases did not allow them to get prompt medical care for their injuries. For example, on July 18, police detained a 26-year-old activist, Andranik Aslanyan, at Yerevans Liberty Square and severely beat him and two other men in the back of a police van. Police kicked, punched, and beat Aslanyan on the head, face, back, and legs, spat on him, and rubbed his face on their boots to humiliate him. He was then held for three hours before being taken to a hospital even though he, and others, asked for and needed immediate medical attention.

Armenias Special Investigative Service has opened investigations into the police behavior, and these investigations should be swift, thorough, and lead to accountability for police who engaged in unlawful conduct, HRW said. The Special Investigative Service told HRW on Aug. 3, that it has also opened investigations into the police actions on July 29, as well as into the police behavior on other protest nights, and that investigators have not yet identified any suspects or made any arrests among law enforcement agencies.

Police have detained hundreds of people since July 17, but law enforcement authorities have not publicly disclosed exactly how many people were detained, where they were held, how many have been released, or how many are under arrest and facing criminal charges. The Armenian Ombudsmans Office told HRW that authorities detained at least 220 people from July 17 through 30, and brought criminal charges against approximately 45 of them.

Police can detain protesters who commit acts of violence or violate public order laws. But detention is considered arbitrary if it does not comply with the legal framework for detention and is not based on the persons specific behavior but instead is a response to the persons legitimate exercise of rights or freedoms guaranteed under international law.

In some cases, police held detainees for up to 12 hours without documenting the detentions. Under Armenian law, police have three hours to prepare a detention record or release the detainee. In at least two cases, police held groups of peoplein one case more than 100 peoplefor longer periods in a gymnasium on a base belonging to interior troops.

The authorities released many detainees without charge. Of the approximately 45 in pretrial detention, many face criminal charges for allegedly organizing mass disorder, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. In some cases, authorities have brought, or threatened to bring, charges against political activists for illegal weapons possession. In two of the cases, detainees claim that police planted the weapons on them.

Authorities denied many detainees their basic rights, including prompt access to a lawyer of their choosing and the opportunity to inform a relative of their detention and whereabouts. In some cases, people searched desperately for their relatives before finding out they had been detained. Among the vocal protest leaders facing charges of organizing mass disorder are Andreas Ghukasyan, an opposition politician, and Hovsep Khurshudyan, David Sanasaryan, and Armen Martirosyan, all senior members of the opposition Heritage Party. The mens lawyers told HRW that the primary basis for the charges in all cases is police testimony. Witnesses and the mens lawyers told HRW that the police beat Ghukasyan and Sanasaryan in detention and denied them basic medical care.

On Aug. 1-2, courts ordered the four leaders be held for two months in pretrial detention, ruling that each is a flight risk and would hinder the investigation or commit another crime if freed on bail. The mens lawyers said that investigators did not provide the court specific facts to support the need for custody, but simply stated all possible legal grounds for denial. Without explanation, the judges rejected all defense motions to release the men, referring only to the gravity of the crime and envisaged sanction for it.

In determining whether to authorize a persons detention, human rights law requires the judicial authorities, at a minimum, have enough evidence to establish a reasonable suspicion that the person committed an offense. To justify pretrial detention, the European Court of Human Rights, whose rulings are binding on Armenia, has repeatedly clarified that a court needs evidence of specific facts and personal circumstances relevant to the accused justifying pretrial detention, and cannot rely on general and abstract reasons for detention.

The authorities have presented no meaningful grounds for holding these four protest leaders, Buchanan said. They should be released immediately on bail, pending the outcome of the investigation and a fair trial.

The authorities have also denied the men the opportunity to make phone calls and to have family visits, claiming that contact with family members or others could compromise the investigation. Under Armenian law, detainees have the right to one phone call per week and one family visit every two weeks.

Under Armenian law, the crime of organizing mass disorder requires that the disorder be accompanied with violence, pogroms, arson, destruction or damage to property, using fire-arms, explosives or explosive devices, or by armed resistance to the representative of the authorities. Charging leaders and participants of the July 29 protests with this crime is unjustified and disproportionate, given that, although at times tense, the demonstration was largely nonviolent, HRW said. Such over-charging, when the facts on the ground do not support them, appears intended to intimidate protesters and deter them from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly to demonstrate against the government, rather than any genuine effort to uphold law and order.

The majority of those in pretrial custody are at the Nubarashen pretrial detention facility, which has a significant overcrowding problem. An independent expert with a monitoring group that, under the auspices of Armenias Justice Ministry, observes conditions in facilities for detainees and prisoners, told HRW that the facilitys capacity is 840 inmates, but in Jan., it held 942 detainees. Excessive use of pretrial detention following the recent protests and dozens of new detainees may exacerbate overcrowding. One lawyer reported that his client, detained on July 20 in relation to the protests, is held in a cell with 14 inmates sleeping in shifts because there are only 12 beds.

Armenia is a party to multiple human rights treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, that require it to ensure effective investigations and appropriate prosecutions and punishment of officials responsible for serious violations of human rights, including ill-treatment.

The authorities detention of protest leaders and denial of basic detainee rights are unjustifiably punitive and seemed designed to send a message to others that public expression of discontent can carry tremendous risks, Buchanan said.


Authorities Rounded Up, Detained Protest Leaders in Wake of Police Station Occupation YEREVAN (HRW)Armenian authorities have arbitrarily detained dozens of people linked to the ongoing, largely peaceful, protests and beaten many of them, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Aug. 5. The authorities also have pressed unjustified criminal charges against numerous protest leaders and some participants and denied them basic rights of detainees. Armenian authorities have arbitrarily detained dozens of people linked to the ongoing, largely peaceful, protests and beaten many of them, HRW said on Aug. 5. (Photo: Photolure) The Armenian authorities response to Yerevans largely peaceful protests has been excessive and cruel, said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at HRW. The tense atmosphere at some protests is no justification for detaining people arbitrarily, beating them, and bringing disproportionate criminal charges against them. There have been protests in Armenias capital, Yerevan, almost every night since July 17, 2016, after a group of armed men from a radical opposition group seized a Yerevan police station, killing one policeman and taking several hostages. Before the gunmen surrendered on July 31, public support for them and disaffection with the government grew into a wide protest movement in Yerevan. The [...]
Authorities Rounded Up, Detained Protest Leaders in Wake of Police Station Occupation YEREVAN (HRW)Armenian authorities have arbitrarily detained dozens of people linked to the ongoing, largely peaceful, protests and beaten many of them, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Aug. 5. The authorities also have pressed unjustified criminal charges against numerous protest leaders and some participants and denied them basic rights of detainees. Armenian authorities have arbitrarily detained dozens of people linked to the ongoing, largely peaceful, protests and beaten many of them, HRW said on Aug. 5. (Photo: Photolure) The Armenian authorities response to Yerevans largely peaceful protests has been excessive and cruel, said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at HRW. The tense atmosphere at some protests is no justification for detaining people arbitrarily, beating them, and bringing disproportionate criminal charges against them. There have been protests in Armenias capital, Yerevan, almost every night since July 17, 2016, after a group of armed men from a radical opposition group seized a Yerevan police station, killing one policeman and taking several hostages. Before the gunmen surrendered on July 31, public support for them and disaffection with the government grew into a wide protest movement in Yerevan. The [...]
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