To: European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
Mr. Mykola Gnatovskyy, President
Council of Europe
Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Mr. Nils Muižnieks
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
Mr. Michael Georg Link, Director
United Nations Committee Against Torture
Mr. Jens Modvig, Chairperson,
International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Secretary-General
STATEMENT AND CALL FOR ACTION
On 17.07.2016 according to the RA National Security Service (NSS) an armed group had seized the premises of the Patrol Service Regiment of the RA Police and has taken police officers as hostages. (Source: http://www.sns.am/index.php/am/news/317-17072016):
The armed group called “Sasna Tsrer” has come forward with certain demands, which is the resignation of the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan, immediate release of Zhirayr Sefilyan, leader of the Founding Parliament opposition group and co-founder of the New Armenia Public Salvation Front, who was arrested nearly a month ago on charges of illegal acquisition, transfer and storage by a group of persons of weapons and ammunition, as well as a number of people who had appeared in prison on fabricated charges, as the group “Sasna Tsrer” claims and as a result of unfair trials, including Gevorg Safaryan, Hayk Kyureghyan, Shant Harutyunyan and his friends and others.
During the first day on 17.07.2016 under unclear yet circumstances was killed Colonel Artur Vanoyan and five were wounded. As the group “Sasna Tsrer” claims they did not have a desire to kill anyone and it was a response fire by group members on gun fire made by the killed Colonel Artur Vanoyan.
During these days protesters are periodically gathering in the area of the opera house in the Freedom square, where they are illegally arrested and unprecedentedly brought to the police units instead of the district police stations. Numerous reports show that the protesters have been subjected to beatings, humiliation and cruel treatment while taking to police units, as well as during interrogations and in police cars. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP515HT6b7k, http://www.azatutyun.am/a/27863671.html)
On 18 July, inhuman and degrading treatment of a number of protesters reached the border of police brutality. Andranik Aslanyan (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlXk9gDP9Lw) who was detained and subjected to violence by police officers reported that police officers forced the detained to kiss their shoes, they were swearing and spitting at them. (Source: http://armtimes.com/hy/read/89877, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc98cICW5QA&feature=youtu.be)
David Sanasaryan, member of Yerevan Council from “Heritage” party was beaten to an extent that he lost consciousness, as a result of which in the hospital he was diagnosed with brain concussion and documented injuries on his head and body. (Source: http://www.a1plus.am/1473138.html)
While being apprehended and also in a police station Police subjected to severe beatings another activist, Vaghinak Shushanyan, whose rights were represented by FAVL’s lawyer.
The Human Rights Defender on the case of David Sanasaryan and Vaghinak Shushanyan has applied to the Special Investigative Service of RA. (Source: http://news.am/arm/print/news/338009.html).
A complaint was also filed by FAVL lawyer on Vaghinak Shushanyan’s violation of rights – subjecting to beatings and illegal arrest to the Special Investigative Service and the General Prosecutor of RA. (Source:http://arm.favl.am/2016/07/18/%D5%A8%D5%AB%D5%AF-%D6%83%D5%A1%D5%BD%D5%BF%D5%A1%D5%A2%D5%A1%D5%B6%D5%A8-%D5%B0%D5%A1%D5%B2%D5%B8%D6%80%D5%A4%D5%B8%D6%82%D5%B4-%D5%A7-%D5%B6%D5%A5%D6%80%D5%AF%D5%A1%D5%B5%D5%A1%D6%81%D6%80%D5%A5/
The lawyers were denied to provide services to the apprehended protesters for hours, in some cases at all, including FAVL’s lawyers. The protesters were kept illegally exceeding the 3 hours of holding prescribed by law, which had reached up to 32 hours, without any food or water. Some protesters were taken in unknown directions until found.
The police detained citizens from Khorenatsi street near the Patrol Service Regiment of the RA Police. The detainees included Lusine Galsyan and Ani Avetisyan, wife and daughter of Varouzhan Avetisyan, another member of “New Armenia Public Salvation Front” and “Sasna Tsrer” group.
Anushik Harutyunyan, Elmone and Sime Yeghnukyans were taken to police station for poster writing “There is no other way”. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amZ_oEMk-rw)
The police subjected detained citizens Artush Chibukhchyan and Levon Zakaryan to beatings, following which they were taken to hospital with bodily injuries.
Artak Hambardzumyan, journalist performing his professional duties on Khorenatsi Street was slapped by police officer hindering to take videos. On question why the people were detained he received a kick in his belly.
Another journalist Gevorg Tosunyan from www.iravaban.net, whose rights are represented by FAVL’s lawyer was beaten by a group of policemen on the night of July 20 early morning July 21. The police seized the chip from his camera because he was taking videos on how stones were being thrown at civilians by other civilians. A crime report was already filed to the police on July 21.
People were forcibly apprehended on the streets and detained, including apprehending on the street the writer Hovik Vardumyan. Kidnaping of people from the streets were also reported, which included kidnapping of artist Arthur Petrosyan on Tigran Mets Avenue and the person walking next to him by unidentified people.
Members of political parties were also detained from Khorenatsy street, including detention of 9 members of the party “Civil Contract” Armen Galjyan, Artashes Jilavyan, Tigran Kirishyan, Artoush Yeghizaryan, Sirak Sargsyan, Trdat Sargsyan, Arayik Harutyunyan, Vilen Gabrielyan, Arthur Ghukasyan. Arayik Harutyunyan had been injured after special measures applied by police. His shirt was burned, his face was injured from an explosive used by the police. Vilen Gabrielyan had injuries as well, while in detention, where he was subjected to beatings and ill-treatment. (Source: http://hetq.am/arm/news/69300/berman-en-entarkvel-qaxaqaciakan-paymanagir-kusakcutyan-andamnery.html#.V5Bwn9afFsE.facebook)
Families of the activists were pursued by the police in masks. Illegal without proper warrants searches were conducted in homes and garages of the activists. The flat of Vardan Geravetyan, a civic activist was searched in his absence. On 20.07.2016 activist and member of “New Armenia Public Salvation Front” Karo Yeghnukyan has been arrested on the charges of assisting the terrorist group to take over transportation or communication buildings, facilities and hostages on the grounds of the Article 218 and 219 of the Criminal Code, facing 8-15 years of imprisonment, even though anything was found during the search. (Source: http://newsbook.am/?p=86824%2Fkaro+exnukyanin+dzerbakalel+en&l=am).
His children as mentioned above Elmone and Sime Yeghnukyans were detained as well.)
On 18 July three staff members of FAVL advocate Ara Gharagyosyan, Nare Aramian and the Executive Director / first Ombudsman Larisa Alaverdyan were on the territory of location of internal troops, as well as in police detention places and have seen detainees with traces of numerous physical injuries, who were released after a long detention.
The Armenian public was consequently informed from subsequent NSS statements, as well as from the interviews given to media by the members of “Sasna Tsrer” that both parties were in the process of negotiations. However, on 20.07.2016 it became clear from the interviews given by the members of “Sasna Tsrer” that the negotiations have stalled and the authorities have stopped supplying food to the group. Many members of the public suggested being involved in the process of negotiations calling the parties for peaceful without bloodshed settlement and outcome of the issue. Some of them were involved in the negotiation process by the authorities. (Source: http://www.a1plus.am/category/videos?vid=1472752#videoid=yPfsA5vjCjs)
As a result of negotiations and good will of the group “Sasna Tsrer” 5 police officers were released by the armed group, including the wounded police officers, an officer who had health issues, as well as police officer who had scheduled engagement on July 23. Later on the members of armed group “Sasna Tsrer” have announced that they are ready to free the hostages in exchange to the Head of the Police of RA, Lieutenant General Vladimir Gasparyan.
According to media on 20.07.2016 on Khorenatsti street, where the riot police was deployed to ensure the siege of the group in the premises of the Patrol Service Regiment, public was gathered demanding that the Police allowed them to take food to “Sasna Tsrer” group. The demand of the public was rejected by the Police, which caused clashes between the police forces and the protesters. The police at that day had applied the special measures, such as gunshots and explosives. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvfBRjuWS6Q&feature=share)
However, as later on becomes clear according to media recordings, as well as the protesters the clashes were caused by instigators dressed in civilian clothes. According to the videos the policemen apprehending the protesters were pretending to apprehend the police dressed in the civilian clothes as well, however, warning to be gentle with them, “he is one of us”, as they were of the same police groups. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQHsA64IuZY&app=desktop)
Few dozens of people were apprehended during police clashes of that day. During the same day as a result of rock fire at each other by both sides 51 persons were wounded, including 29 policemen. Some of them are still in hospitals.
On 21.07.2016 the members of “Sasna Tsrer” situated in Patrol Service Regiment Pavel Manukyan and Varuzhan Avetisyan gave interviews to media and informed that they were not provided food for two days.
Police brutality has crossed all the reasonable boundaries, mass beatings with truncheons, hands, feet, rocks, torture, humiliation with psychological pressure of making protesters to leak their boots has raised public, human rights defenders, intellectual sector’s concerns and led to demand the authorities to face the public and settle this issue in peaceful manner. (Source: http://www.azatutyun.am/a/27871624.html)
From the seizure of Patrol Service Regiment of the RA Police up until 21.07.2016 there are no statements made by the high level authorities: the speaker of the Parliament, Prime Minister, and the President. As the demands of the armed group are specific, which coincides with the demand of the part of protesters – the resignation of the President of the Republic of Armenia, the public is demanding and expecting the President to come forward with the speech or call to the public, which is not done up until today. Neither the head of the police Vladimir Gasparyan has made statement, which is unprecedented to his previous actions.
Only on 22.07.2016 five days later the President had invited a consultation with the National Security Service, the police, the prosecutor and the heads of the investigative bodies, where he had called on the armed group to surrender and free hostages. (Source: http://armlur.am/559180/)
Taking into consideration the fact that besides the NSS similar statements no further statement has been made by any public official on the continuation of negotiations, as well as the fact that the group is in siege by police forces and the members of the group are deprived of the possibility to take care of their needs such as food, water and medical treatment, we strongly condemn the authorities forcing the “Sasna Tsrer” group to surrender based on mentioned facts of hunger and dehydration, which is equal to inhuman and degrading treatment, instead of taking actions for peaceful and reasonable negotiations. Meanwhile, the hunger and dehydration concerns not only the “Sasna Tsrer” group, but also 4 police officers kept hostage on site. Triggered by the authorities to extreme actions and incapability of the government to negotiate speak about their inadequacy in making decisions, coming to compromise, as well as puts them responsible for the lives of people sieged by the police, including the police officers and the negative consequences thereto.
We, as the human rights defending organization are calling on the Armenian authorities:
- to stop the police brutality, beatings and torture inflicted by the police,
- to stop a practice of illegal arrests and illegal searches in homes of peaceful protestors and supporters of the “Sasna Tsrer” group,
- to investigate all reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, as well as the unlawful orders and /or omissions of persons responsible for maintaining order and security in the country and to ensure rule of law and symmetry of imposed measures in full compliance with RA legislation and international human rights standards,
- investigate cases in compliance with the Article 3 (the right not to be subjected to torture), Article 5 (right to liberty and security of a person), Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) and the Article 11 (right to freedom of assembly) of the European Convention on Human Rights,
- to inform the public about all the measures taken in respect of all police officers who have violated human rights in these days, starting from 17.07.2016,
- to insure proper within legal boundaries, an open, subjective and fair trial of all cases concerning the protesters and illegal police actions.
We, as human rights defending organization, are calling on the international human rights defending organizations, particularly the UN and the Council of Europe specialized agencies to take necessary steps to oblige the authorities to take actions, which will lead to credible solution of the issues raised in the statement.
Executive Director, First Ombudsman of Armenia