Human Rights Issues in Eurasia / Правовые Вопросы В Регионах Евразии

Armenian Police In Rare Apology Over Torture

Posted by Info on 03/05/2010

In an unprecedented public apology, the head of Armenia’s police service has admitted misleading the nation about the recent death of a young man in police custody. Alik Sargsian on April 30 said he was “deceived” by his subordinates into thinking that Vahan Khalafian was not ill-treated at a police station in Charentsavan, in central Armenia.

“I am going to punish all of my employees who gave me incorrect information and thereby put me in an awkward situation.”

His statement came one day after Ashot Harutiunian, a senior police officer in Charentsavan, was formally charged with torturing Khalafian to extract a confession about a theft committed in the town. The 24-year-old died in police custody, with his relatives insisting that he was tortured to death.

Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) said the charge is based on testimony given by other local police officers.

“I am not going to defend anyone and all the guilty [people] will be punished,” said Sargsian. “I never encouraged beatings. There are more proper ways of doing the job.” “Let those people whom I misinformed with my statements forgive me,” he added. “As for those who deceived me, they will be punished with all the strictness of the law. I am not going to forgive anyone.”

Sargsian, however, stuck to police claims that Khalafian grabbed a knife from a police officer’s drawer and stabbed himself to death after the interrogation.

Artur Sakunts, a human rights campaigner: “How could a tortured and beaten young man quickly find a knife in a room totally unfamiliar to him? How did he know where it was kept? Or did they put the knife on a table and tell him to kill himself?… So I believe what happened was murder.

While welcoming the police apology, Sakunts said Sargsian should have gone further and stepped down.“A mere apology can not change the situation.”

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