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29.01.2018 | human rights in closed institutions

Who fired Artur Osikyan?

Who fired Artur Osikyan?
The firing of Artur Osikyan, the former head of the Penitentiary Department of the Ministry of Justice, was not disclosed to the public at all.   

From the photos on the website of the Ministry of Justice that were taken on the occasion of presentation of the new head of the department Rafayel Hovhannisyan, it was apparent that Osikyan did not go to bid his farewell to his former boss Davit Harutyunyan when the latter was presenting the new head of the Penitentiary Department.   

Artur Sakunts, a member of the public monitoring group in the penitentiary institutions, said in an interview with Forrights.am that Artur Osikyan was fired by Serzh Sargsyan [the President of Armenia] himself because of  "subjective reasons", since no abrupt changes in the penitentiary institutions occurred. 

"In my opinion, Minister Davit Harutyunyan and Artur Osikyan had personal disagreements and Serzh Sargsyan spared David Harutyunyan because he had entrusted the minister with the task of formation of the legislative framework necessary for the transition from one stage of his government to another," the human rights activist said.  

The member of the monitoring group noted also that, despite the fact of Artur Osikian`s education, who has received his education abroad, there have not been changes in the conditions of the penitentiary institutions during his tenure. "On the contrary; I can say that, since 2016, the activities of public observers have been limitted in the penitentiaries, prohibiting us to meet with all the detainees, including the members of "Sasna Tsrer". Thus, we were deprived of the opportunity to examine the conditions of their cells, the status of their rights," Sakunts said.  

"This was a political decision, and it wouldn’t matter if it were Osikyan or somebody else. Osikyan fulfilled Serge Sargsyan`s political instruction and did not object to it in any way. There has not been a single case when a minister or a head official volunteerly resigned due to his/her disagreement with the ongoing policy. If it were so, it would have meant that he had tried to do something, but couldn’t. But no one has taken responsibility."

The human rights activist underlined that no reform was carried out at the penitentiaries during Artur Osikian`s tenure. "Primary health care was introduced in the framework of the program implemented by the Council of Europe. It had just technical nature: the culture of tough guys, institute of "watchers" and corruption remained intact," Sakunts said.  

He expressed conviction that no one in the public administration system can change anything if there is no political will. "And there is no political will for changing the situation in the penitentiary institutions -- the human attitude towards the detainees and respect of their dignity. Serzh Sargsyan personally makes decisions on all of these," said the observer, adding that the new head of the Penitentiary Department, Raphael Hovhannisyan, will not change anything.

“Osikyan`s dismissal was not enough at all: there should be a matter of accountability"   

The Helsinki Association of Armenia conducted an observation mission in the penitentiary institutions in 2009-10. "We have recorded the disgraceful situation especially in the Nubarashen Penitentiary," said Nina Karapetyants, a lawyer of the association. 

The lawyer told that, due to the dreadful conditions of Nubarashen penitentiary, his client Hrachya Gevorgyan had suffered serious illness and died in dubious circumstances: he had sent an open letter to the media, informing about the dimentions of corruption and drug trafficking in Nubarashen.  

Hrachya Gevorgyan had been in the Nubarashen penitentiary for six years and her mother could not see her son even once because, according to the lawyer, there are no elementary conditions to transport a person in a wheelchair to the visitors’ room. 

"When I was going to Hrachya Gevorgyan`s cell in 2016, I was passing through quite a large territory of the penitentiary and it was in ignominious condition. The walls were so wet that they were crumbling. In Hrachya Gevorgyan`s cell, the floor was wet: if wearing thin shoes, your feet would get soaked. There were toilet and water supply issues. Food was not fit for anything. The smell was horrible. In 2010, a young girl from our observers’ group got sick from the smell of Nubarashen and had to leave. The number of insects is unthinkable. Treatment and medication are absent," told the lawyer. 

Nina Karapetyan personally witnessed how the prisoner in the cell next to his client was screaming in pain because he needed surgery, but they would not operate him and did not give him painkillers saying that they did not have any. 

"We have conducted anonymous survey and it came out that all detainees had those issues. During Osikyan`s tenure the situation has worsened. In the mean time, the Penitentiary Department keeps  presenting the opposite picture, saying how much money they have provided, how much purchases have been made, drugs have been provided, but the drugs in fact were not there. Where did the drugs and money get lost -- was incomprehensible. I think Osikyan`s dismissal was not enough. I am convinced that there should be a matter of accountability  because the institution under his charge either could not or did not want to secure normal, ordinary work of penitentiaries."

Lawyer Hayarpi Sargsyan (defending Hovhannes Harutyunyan of Sasna Tsrer) even appealed to the Prosecutor General regarding the inactivity of the Head of the Penitentiary Department Artur Osikyan. The prosecutor ignored the complaint, so the lawyer turned to the court and the first hearing will take place on February 26, 2018. "Osikyan was making arbitrary decisions about people with health problems kept in inhumane conditions. Repeatedly, letters were sent to Mr. 

Osikyan regarding the problem, but he ignored them, as a result of which the health of people suffered irreversibly. They continued to be tortured in those cruel conditions, without treatment," said Hayarpi Sargsyan.  

According to the lawyer, the fact that Osikyan has been fired does not mean that the appeals will remain unanswered. 

"I can say from my experience that there is a regression in the past 1.5 years in conditions of the penitentiary institutions. For example, my client Hovhannes Harutyunyan got gunshot wound and was not operated for 1.5 years and stayed in inhuman conditions of Nubarashen, without medical assistance. And he became disabled not only because of doctors, but also  because of inactivity of the head of the penitentiary department," the defender emphasized. 

The lawyer does not have great hopes for the new head of the PD Rafayel Hovhannisyan. "The new chief, while a deputy, was well informed and did nothing." 

Incidentally, we learn from the property declaration of Artur Osikyan that, while still working as a deputy chief of police, he received an apartment worth 57 million AMD [about $120,000] in 2011, as a gift. 

Marine Kharatyan
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