Four members of an armed opposition group in Armenia, on trial for serious crimes, have alleged that police beat them in custody, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities have an obligation to conduct a prompt, thorough, and effective investigation into the alleged beatings and hold to account those responsible for any ill-treatment.
The defendants variously suffered cuts and bruises on their faces, heads, abdomens, backs, and legs in beatings they say took place on June 28, 2017. The men are among 32 being prosecuted in two groups for crimes, including the killing of police officers, committed during the violent takeover of a police station in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, in July 2016.
“Ill-treatment of detainees is strictly prohibited in all circumstances – it’s that simple, and no amount of anger at the crimes these men are charged with, or tension at the trial, can justify physical abuse of the defendants,” said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities have a clear-cut obligation to promptly and thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice.”
At a June 28 hearing at Yerevan’s Erebuni Nubarashen district court, a police officer prevented one of the defendants, Areg Kyureghyan, from passing a note to his lawyer. Kyureghyan and other defendants protested the interference, and defendants and officers argued. Police then removed Kyureghyan and two other defendants, Mkhitar Avetisyan and Smbat Barseghyan, from the courtroom. Lawyers for Kyureghyan, Avetisyan, and two other defendants, Arayik Khandoyan and Gagik Yeghiazaryan, said that police then beat the four defendants in the court’s basement.
The lawyers stated that officials at the remand prisons, where the defendants are being held during trial, examined the four men after they were brought back from the court and documented injuries.
“It is positive that the authorities have initiated an investigation into the incident,” Gogia said. “But to be credible, the investigation has to be effective, meaning that it needs to be thorough, impartial, and capable of identifying abusive officials and bringing them to justice.”