On October 13, 1993 the Republic of Armenia had ratified the United Nations 1984 “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”.
On May 31, 2006 the Republic of Armenia had ratified also the Optional Protocol to the “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” (hereafter - Optional Protocol) of December 18, 2002 which plans to establish a national mechanism for prevention of torture.
In this regard, in 2008 the RA law “On the Human Rights Defender” was supplemented by Article 6.1 which declared the RA Human Rights Defender to be the independent national preventive mechanism.
The goal of establishing an independent national preventive mechanism is the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment through regular as well as necessary visits to places of deprivation of liberty, including their adjacent buildings or structures.
In terms of the Optional Protocol a place of deprivation of liberty is considered any place where, by the decision, order or instruction, concent or authorization of the state or the local self-government body or official a person has been or may be deprived of liberty, as well as any place which a person cannot arbitrarily leave without the decision or permission of a court, administrative or other body or official. Such places are, for example, the places of keeping arrested persons, penitentiary institutions, psychiatric institutions, military disciplinary isolation cells, as well as the vehicles for the transportation of persons deprived of their liberty, etc.
In order to fulfill the obligations of the independent national preventive mechanism defined by the Optional Protocol the Human Rights Defender created a separate department - the Department for the Prevention of Torture and Ill-treatment (till June 3, 2016 the department was called “Department of National Mechanism for the Prevention of Violence”). The department has a staff of 4 lawyers and 1 doctor.
In addition to carrying out regular monitoring visits to places of deprivation of liberty the Department for the Prevention of Torture and Ill-treatment also handles individual complaints received from places of deprivation of liberty.
Due to constitutional changes of December 6, 2015 the constitutional draft law of the Republic of Armenia “On Human Rights Defender” (hereafter – the Draft) was drawn up which is now in the National Assembly of RA.
The Draft was developed taking into account the opinion of the Venice Commission on the draft law of the Republic of Armenia “On Human Rights Defender” of 2015, the standards of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), as well as the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) and advanced experience of a number of countries.
The Draft also clarifies the power of the Ombudsman as the national preventive mechanism conforming to the December 18, 2002 Optional Protocol to the 1984 UN convention “Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”. In particular, the notion of places of deprivation of liberty and the non-exhaustive list of such places were defined; the power of the Ombudsman to have free access to the mentioned places for the purpose of prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to see those persons confidentially and without hindrance, to engage an interpreter if necessary, to use technical resources, as well as have access to all documents necessary for the implementation of the Ombudsman's powers and receive their copies was defined, at the same time the possibility of implementing other powers defined by the Optional Protocol was provided for.
As a national preventive mechanism, in order to support the Ombudsman, by the decision of the latter the new staff of the Expert Council for the Prevention of Torture was approved, and independent experts from various fields with experience of monitoring in places of deprivation of liberty were involved in them, including representatives of NGOs.
During 2016 they made more than 110 visits to the RA police stations and detention centers, penitentiary institutions, military disciplinary isolation cells in the territory of the Republic of Armenia. Joint visits with the members of the Expert Council for the Prevention of Torture and in some institutions double visits were carried out as well.
The planned visits of 2016 aimed at identifying the problems existing in the institutions under study and at studying and regulating the opportunities of finding effective solutions to them. Concerning the problems identified during the planned and unplanned visits and effective solutions to them the RA Human Rights Defender presented proposals to the competent authorities.
In particular, problems were identified concerning the conditions of detention of persons deprived of liberty in the penitentiary institutions, the organization of medical service, proper performance of external examination, as well as other issues related to the rights of the detained persons.
Problems with the maintenance, sanitation conditions, provision of food, and external examination of the facilities of detention of the arrested and detained persons were identified in the RA police system. The necessity for raising awareness on the rights and freedoms of the citizens was highlighted too.
Recommendations were made on making amendments and additions to the legal acts regulating the sphere and currently work is carried out towards their implementation.
The problems identified as a result of the monitorings carried out by the national preventive mechanism, the measures taken to solve them, as well as separate problematic cases are presented to the Ombudsman in the annual and special reports of the national preventive committee.