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Armenian Prosecutors Vow To Combat Torture

Vahan Khalafian died in police custody

Vahan Khalafian died in police custody

YEREVAN -- Armenian Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian has told visiting Council of Europe officials that security officials are doing more to stop the mistreatment of criminal suspects, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Officials from the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) arrived in Yerevan on a fact-finding visit earlier this week and has met with law-enforcement officials and human rights activists.

Rights groups have long regarded police brutality as the most common form of human rights abuse in Armenia.

The CPT delegation was received by Hovsepian on May 19. A statement by the Prosecutor-General's Office said CPT officials had inquired about procedures for investigating torture claims made by detainees in Armenia.

"The key to the success of the fight against unacceptable methods of investigation is a punitive policy," Hovsepian was quoted as saying. He pointed to the recent arrest and prosecution of two police officers in the town of Charentsavan. They are accused of ill-treating a man who was found dead at the local police station on April 13.

But Mikael Danielian, the chairman of the Armenian Helsinki Association who also met the CPT delegation, today dismissed Hovsepian's assurances. He claimed the authorities are doing nothing to root out the illegal practice.

"Most police officers are uneducated and brutal people," Danielian told RFE/RL. "Why? I don't know. You should probably ask the police why [they] hire such people."

Danielian also insisted that the man who died in Charentsavan, Vahan Khalafian, was tortured to death rather than committed suicide as claimed by police.

The prosecutors' statement said Hovsepian provided CPT officials with "information" about Khalafian's case as well as several other high-profile deaths in prison and police custody.

He also said prosecutors are investigating torture allegations made by an opposition member imprisoned in connection with the 2008 postelection violence in Yerevan.