A Discussion on “Fight against Criminal Sub-Cultures: What is Going on in PIs”

Hasmik Harutyunyan, the legal expert of the Protection of Rights without Borders NGO, the President of the Group of Public Monitors Implementing Supervision over the Criminal-Executive Institutions and Bodies of the Ministry of Justice of RA (herein as the Monitoring Group) participated in the discussion on the topic “Fight against Criminal Sub-Cultures: What is Going on in PIs” organized at the Media Centre Initiative on September 02 of 2020.

Hasmik Harutyunyan touched upon the violation cases recorded in “Nubarashen” Penitentiary Institution under the RA Ministry of Justice back on August 23 of 2020.

She informed, that the Monitoring Group received a call, in response to which the Monitoring Group made an immediate visit to “Nubarashen” Penitentiary Institution to examine the details of the incident and to have interviews with the prisoners.

It was detected during the visit, that on August 23 of 2020, near 9:00 AM, a special division of the RA Ministry of Justice Penitentiary Service paid an unplanned visit to “Nubarashen” penitentiary and an examination was held in the cell number 4, where detainees were found. In the outcomes of the examination, wireless headphones were detected, after which, grounded by different reasons, again a visit was made to “Nubarashen” penitentiary institution by approximately 10-12 special division employees.

The second visit was grounded by the facts, that during the first visit the prisoners showed resistance and did not obey the legal demands of the special division employees, therefore the latter used special force and subjected the prisoners to physical violence.

It should be mentioned, that during the second examination, no forbidden item was detected.

Based on the facts recorded by the Monitoring Group, a report on crime was forwarded to the RA Prosecutor General’s Office, in regard to which relevant document are being prepared.

As stated by H. Harutyunyan, neither she nor other members of the Monitoring Group have witnessed such a case during their experience of 7-8 years, that prisoners have such injuries, hemorrhage or bruises on different parts of their bodies.

“Not being a doctor, it is easy to record, that such injuries can be caused only as a result of violence” – mentioned the President of the Monitoring Group.

It was mentioned in the official announcement, that the relevant medical assistance was provided and that that it was mentioned in the medical record, that the prisoners fell out of the bed.

Hasmik Harutyunyan stated that the information mentioned in the medical record, that the prisoners fell out the bed, is not serious itself in case of such injuries.

“If we are fighting against the criminal subculture, the problem itself is so dominant, that does not allow the prisoners to voice the violence applied against them and those people being in closed institutions do not have safety guarantee” – said the President of the Monitoring Group.

Such cases can lead to new actions and create an impunity atmosphere. In regard to the mentioned incident, the relevant bodies in charge of coordinating the sector and the system should have issued explanations how they are fighting against criminal subcultures by presenting clarifications and justifications:

  • What kind of resistance did the prisoners show?
  • How grounded the application of physical violence by the employees of 11 special divisions was?
  • How was the cell 4 chosen?
  • How were those prisoners chosen?
  • Was the proportionality principal maintained?  

H. Harutyunyan recorded a regress in terms of human rights protection of the prisoners and the detainees in the closed institutions and stated, that such situation was typical during the beginning of 2000s and during the last years similar cases have not been recorded.

According to H. Harutyunyan, the fight against the criminal subculture should be accompanied by a complex approach: through concrete measures, personnel policy, overall culture, value system, social-integration changes, establishment of employment guarantees, which will exclude the application of force and violence.

As a conclusion, H. Harutyunyan mentioned: “There is a very serious expectation and demand, that such cases should not be repeated in future and for that those who are guilty should be subjected to liability”.