Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Armenia

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has today published the report on its second periodic visit to Armenia in April 2006, together with the Armenian authorities’ response. Both documents have been made public at the request of the Armenian Government.
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In the light of the information gathered during the visit, the CPT has maintained its assessment that persons deprived of their liberty by the police in Armenia run a significant risk of being ill-treated. The Committee has called upon the Armenian authorities to deliver to all police staff a strong message, emanating from the highest political level, that the ill-treatment of detained persons is illegal and will be dealt with severely. Further, the Committee has made several recommendations aimed at strengthening the formal safeguards against ill-treatment and at improving screening for injuries and police complaints procedures. At the same time, the CPT has welcomed the ongoing refurbishment programme concerning police holding areas.

No allegations of ill-treatment by staff were received at Vanadzor Prison. However, several such allegations were received at the Nubarashen Prison’s unit for life-sentenced prisoners, as well as at Goris Prison. As for Abovyan Prison, the delegation received a few isolated allegations of physical ill-treatment. The CPT has recommended that staff working at the above-mentioned prisons be given a clear message that physical ill-treatment of inmates is not acceptable and will be dealt with severely.

The CPT has noted the measures taken to put in place a new legal framework for imprisonment, as well as the considerable decrease in the prison population and the Government’s extensive programme of refurbishment of the prison estate. However, the Committee has expressed concern about the insufficient progress towards providing purposeful activities to prisoners, including lifers. As regards prison health care, there has been some progress since the 2002 visit, in particular with respect to the detection and treatment of tuberculosis.

At Sevan Psychiatric Hospital, most of the patients interviewed by the delegation spoke positively of the attitude of health-care staff. However, patients were accommodated in cramped, austere and impersonal dormitories. Further, the psychiatric treatment was based almost exclusively on pharmacotherapy; the range of other therapeutic options was underdeveloped. The 2006 visit provided the first opportunity for the CPT to assess the legal safeguards applicable to civil hospitalisation under the new Law on Psychiatric Assistance. It became clear that these new safeguards were not yet well known and effectively applied by staff at Sevan Psychiatric Hospital.

In their response, the Armenian authorities provide information on the steps being taken to address the issues raised by the CPT. For example, recent amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure make clear that the period of police custody runs as from the very moment when a person is deprived of his/her liberty by the police, and that the legal safeguards against ill-treatment apply as from that moment. The response also contains detailed information about legal developments in respect of the prison system, as well as on the efforts being made to expand and modernise the prison estate. Regarding psychiatric establishments, the Armenian authorities provide information on the ongoing refurbishment of Sevan Psychiatric Hospital and on the progress with respect to the therapeutic and rehabilitative activities in that establishment.

The CPT’s visit report and the response of the Armenian Government are available in English on the CPT’s website: .