On June 28, 2016 The Group of Public Observers Conducting Public Monitoring of Penitentiary Institutions and Bodies of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia held a press conference in “Media Center” on the topic of “The protection of prisoners’ rights in Armenia: summary of visits of the first 6 months of 2016”. The press conference was attended by the Chairman of the Public Monitoring Group Arayik Zalyan, observers Robert Revazyan, Ruben Sargsyan, Sergey Gabrielyan and Ara Kharagyozyan.
Sergey Gabrielyan, President of “New generation” Humanitarian NGO, referred to the continuing discriminatory attitudes and storage conditions of the most vulnerable groups in Criminal-Executive Institutions. “Vulnerable groups are those, who do not cave to criminal laws, people with health problems, homosexuals, drug users or people receiving methadone treatment. They are more likely to experience discrimination” – noted S. Gabrielyan. The group has clear resources, recommendations to the relevant authorities, but the changes implemented by the Ministry of Justice and other agencies are too small, that they do not address issues identified by the Prison Monitoring Group. ”We can say that the solutions somehow include discrimination against vulnerable groups. If the prisoner is homosexual, drug user, or has disabilities, his problem is not considered that important. And discrimination against these groups are displayed in a more extreme form in criminal-executive institutions.
At the press conference the attendees also summerized the visits of the Group. In general, the group has made 57 visits, during these visits they worked with 88 convicted or detained persons. Visits were made on the basis of alerts and reports. 57% of the visits were made to Nubarashen, Armavir, Abovyan, Vardashen, Kosh and Sevan Criminal-Executive Institutions and Prison Hospital. The main problems were related to medical services, criminal case, early decisions, self-injury and suicide cases, issues related to food and hunger strikes. Some of these issues have been solved by the Group, the others are in process.
Referring to the availability and quality of health care and Hrachya Gevorgyan’s case, Arayik Zalyan noted that any systemic problem has not been solved in Criminal-Executive Institutions. The change will be possible only if there is a political will. Ara Gharagyozian presented the incident happened in “Nubarashen” CEI on June 12 and special measures taken by CEI employees, and Robert Revazyan talked about non-statutory and hierarchical relations that exist in Criminal-Executive Institutions.
At the end of the conference Gabrielyan said that the existence of criminal laws hinder the work of the Prison Monitoring Group also from the perspective of voicing current issues of the prisoners, because they are feared. As a result, monitoring group faces many obstacles, but the struggle will be more effective if the Prison Monitoring Group and prisoners demonstrate interests and willingness to cooperate.