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24.05.2018 | right to a fair trial

Eliminate the inhumane concept of the old regime of never releasing any lifers: a letter from the life-term convicts

Eliminate the inhumane concept of the old regime of never releasing any lifers: a letter from the life-term convicts
Arsen Artsruni (25 years old), Stepan Grigoryan (23), Ashot Manukyan (23), Artur Mkrtchyan (23) and Armenak Mnjoyan (25) have sent an open letter from penitentiary institutions to the RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Justice Minister Artak Zeynalyan where they presented their approach to the "life-term prisoners" in Armenia, asking to suspend the internal "order" of never releasing life-term prisoners founded by the previous regime.

Open letter

To the RA Prime Minister Mr. Nikol Pashinyan and RA Minister of Justice Mr. Artak Zaynalyan

ELIMINATE THE INHUMANE CONCEPT OF THE OLD REGIME OF NEVER RELEASING ANY LIFERS: A LETTER FROM LIFE-TERM PRISONERS

There is a problem of the “lifers” in Armenia. The problem has many components, such as a) the European requirement not to punish with such harsh verdict the citizens under 22 years of age; b) President R. Kocharyan`s unlawful 2003 decree on “pardoning”; c) the unlawful stubbornness in not revising the decisions on lifers after many legislative, international declarations and constitutional amendments; d) the issue of elimination of the documents of the cases of lifers. There are other components too but we would like to focus on the issue of exclusion of early conditional release for the lifers. The combined consequence of all the above-mentioned issues is that the Republic of Armenia has the highest number of life-term prisoners in Europe.

We, the signatories, are part of the life-term prisoners subject to early conditional release. Early conditional release system has a peculiarity: this system is subjective and does not apply to all convicts proportionately, but in case of life-term prisoners it simply ceases functioning at all. The "life-term sentencing” has essentially turned into a sentence of "death penalty through imprisonment" and, up to now, 26 persons of that category have died in prison.

According to the paragraphs 1.1 and 1.2 of Article 76 of the Criminal Code, there are 17 indices, based on which the court has to decide on the release of the convict or deny the conditional release. However, in reality only two of them are being taken into consideration: the presence of penalties and the absence of encouragements. In case of non-lifers, these two justifications are not obstacles, and the non-lifers, at least in some cases, are able to benefit from early release.

If the non-life-term convicts can wait for the end of their terms, then be released, the life-term convicts do not have that option. If the early conditional release mechanism does not work, it means another sentence known as "life imprisonment, without conditional release" applies to them. Except, there is no such penalty in Armenia.The lifers appear before the "independent" commission, where the discussion of the behavior of 20 or more years lasts 2 to 5 minutes. 

The lifers, who appeal in the court, session of which lasts half an hour, are also rejected. Everything is just formality.

We cannot but conclude that the inhuman "doctrine" forbidding the release of any lifer is one of the bases of the regime. That "doctrine" is valid until now. We have seen it strengthened by the joint efforts of the Presidential Staff, the Prosecutor General, and the Supreme Court Chairman. The RA Ministry of Justice and the Human Rights Defender have been the silent accomplices of this reality. And the penitentiary system has constantly intensified penalties and excluded encouragements tofacilitate decision-making on the lifers. In short, the system of early conditional release works exclusively for political reasons that does not work for the lifers.

The problem of the lifers is a political one. It is so because release of the lifers is not yet an issue solvable within the law. It is so because the prosecutor, the Cassation Court Chairman, and other institutions of law enforcement in Armenia jointly strengthen exclusion of this possibility. This occurrence is just another example of systemic lawlessness formed by the previous regime.

We ask you, Mr. Prime Minister, and You, Mr. Minister, that you

* cease the above-mentioned internal "order" by the previous regime on the lifers;

* take measures to ensure fair assessment of convict`s behavior and fair trial of the convict;

* other penalties other than malicious breaches (in connection with phone usage) not be considered as grounds for discussions;

* all the positive manifestations of self-development, education, and art, be clearly encouraged;

* based on the above, and regardless of whether or not a commission or court decision exists on them, the cases of early releases of all lifers who have been imprisoned for 20 years be reviewed from the beginning and without prejudice (that is, the delays of the next occurrence and the 1.5 or 3 years waiting times be eradicated ).

Respectfully,

Artsruni Arsen (25 years old)

Grigoryan Stepan (23 years old)

Manukyan Ashot (23 years old)

Mkrtchyan Artur (23 years old)

Mnjoyan Armenak (25 years old)

May 17, 2018
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