Pulling Teeth: Dealing with the Reformed Ministry of Justice

Pulling Teeth: Dealing with the Reformed Ministry of Justice
Edik Baghdasaryan

15:01, December 17, 2012

When Ministry of Justice Press Secretary Karineh Kalantaryan said,
`Would should I now believe?’ she meant, should she believe me or Gnel
Ghalechyan, who heads the Press Affairs Division of the Ministry’s
Department of Criminal Detention.

I responded, `Do you mean to say that I deceived you?’ and turned off
the telephone, not expecting a reply. I then erased Kalantaryan’s
phone number, deciding to never again call him with any question.

For the last three years, all our requests to visit people held in
Armenia’s correctional facilities have received the same refusal, even
though the head of the press affairs head has been changed. The above
conversation took place twenty days ago. On December 14, we received
the first reply to our two written requests from Ghalechyan. We
received the second reply today.

He responded because I called up the department last week, saying that
we would show up to pick up the responses in person, even though they
had claimed that they had answered. We had decided to take them to
court over Hrayr Tovmasyan’s inaction.

Hetq had received a second letter from Arman Davtyan, serving time at
the Nubarashen Correctional Facility. He had requested assistance in
restoring his good name and innocence. Otherwise, Davtyan threatened
he would commit suicide.

We met with his relatives and immediately wrote a letter to the
Minister of Justice. It couldn’t be ruled out that Hetq might have
been regarded as responsible for Davtyan’s suicide if he went through
with his threat. Studying the case, we have concluded that there are
grounds to charge several of the investigators involved. We wrote to
Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasyan, asking that Hetq reporter Ararat
Davtyan be allowed to visit the Nubarashen Facility and to interview
Arman Davtyan.

Our letter was addressed to Minister Tovmasyan, since after his
appointment none of the Hetq staff have been allowed to enter any
correctional facility. I know that the minister is quite busy with
reforms and it’s clear that he has a certain attitude towards those
serving imprisonment. But that is no grounds for him to violate the
rights of those found guilty and of reporters.

Ghalechyan replied to our two letters that `due to a work overload, an
interview cannot be conducted at this time’. The refusal we received
three years ago was the same, word for word. The constant refusals
over the past few years are why we wrote directly to the reform-minded
minister this time. We know what the answer of Ghalechyan would be if
we wrote to him.

Mr. Minister, the correctional facilities under your jurisdiction are
not `over-worked’. When you so desire, you escort tens of reporters to
events and on trips. If you are so over-worked, then why does a
functionary of the prosecutor’s office show up to see Hovhannes
Tamamyan (imprisoned former head of Police Criminal Investigation
department) to conduct bargaining regarding his house in Tzaghkadzor?
This is just one incident.

Henceforth, you will be forced to set-up a round-the-clock patrol
around the country’s correctional facilities in order to show what
facility staff are actually doing to be so `over-worked’.

From: A. Papazian