Armenia urged to implement UPR commitments and recommendations
Together with the Civil Society Institute (CSI) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) the Norwegian Helsinki Committee have submitted a mid-term assessment (May 2010–December 2012) following recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council at Armenia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2010.
The assessment provides information on Armenia’s legal system and state practice, as discerned through recent monitoring activities undertaken by CSI and FIDH in cooperation with NHC on issues like the right to an effective remedy, judicial independence, the right to a fair trial, the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, the penitentiary system and juvenile justice.
The Armenian authorities have taken some steps to amend national legislation, such as drafting a new Criminal Procedure Code, introducing some amendments to the Criminal Code, and developing programmes and policies for judicial reform; however, in practice Armenia has not made real progress in fulfilling its human rights obligations.
The routine use of torture and ill-treatment, especially in police custody, continues unabated. Victims of torture do not file official complaints fearing retaliation, and perpetrators are not held accountable for such acts. The definition of torture in the Criminal Code falls short of the requirements of the United Nations Convention against Torture (UN CAT). On the rare occasion that cases have been reported, no thorough, independent or effective investigations have been conducted. The courts continue to accept evidence obtained using alleged torture and ill-treatment. Victims of torture and other human rights violations lack access to effective remedies.
Lack of judicial independence remains one of the most serious concerns in Armenia. In many cases the judiciary fails to comply with the guarantees of fair trial standards, envisaged both in international and national legislation. Courts continue to show prosecutorial bias, violating the principles of presumption of innocence, equality of arms and the adversarial nature of proceedings.
To date, neither a system of juvenile justice nor appropriate specialization among prosecutors, lawyers and investigators working with juveniles have been introduced in Armenia. Custodial measures are widely applied to juveniles.
No progress has been made on penitentiary reform. Penitentiary institutions in Armenia remain overcrowded and living conditions have not improved. No inmate rehabilitation programmes have been implemented whatsoever.
CSI, NHC and FIDH call upon the Armenian authorities to redouble their efforts to implement the recommendations and voluntary pledges explicitly undertaken by Armenia during its Universal Periodic Review in 2010.