Ahead of its 103rd session, Penal Reform International submitted information to the Human Rights Committee on Armenia. The briefing outlines PRI’s concerns with regard to the excessive use of pre-trial detention in Armenia, while alternative non-custodial preventive measures are hardly ever applied.
Even after the release of 508 prisoners under an amnesty in May 2011, according to figures provided by the “Group of Public Observers”, as of 30 August 2011 1,174 out of 4,514 prisoners were held in pre-trial detention, representing 26% of overall prison population. The official capacity of the Armenian penitentiary system is 4,396.
In 2007, courts authorised pre-trial detention in 2,780 out of 2,849 cases, representing a percentage of authorisation of 97.6% percent. In 2008 and 2009, courts approved motions for pre-trial detention respectively in 93.5% and 94.1% of the cases. PRI’s assessment of 82 archived decisions regarding pre-trial detention suggests that pre-trial detention decisions of Armenian courts are predominantly reasoned in a schematic way. At the same time, still very few detainees benefit from bail. In 2007, only in 81 cases out of 2,780 did courts even receive motions to consider monetary bail, representing the strikingly low rate of 2.9%. Only 443 requests out of 2,726 cases (16.2%) were filed in 2008, and only 484 requests out of 3,362 cases in 2009 (14.4%).
PRI analysed Armenia’s legal framework and practice in detail and believes that the national legal framework fails to accurately implement human rights standards and ensure that pre-trial detention is imposed on suspects and defendants alike only as a measure of last resort.
The organisation brought its observations to the attention of the Human Rights Committee whose task force, on 4 November, will discuss a “list of issues” to be raised with a delegation of the Armenian government in summer 2012. The Human Rights Committee is tasked with monitoring the compliance of member states with their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which in Article 9 prescribes the right to liberty.
 The Group was formed in 2004 upon the order of the Minister of Justice QH-66-N and complies with the principles of “The Regulations of Activities of a Public Monitoring Group at the Detention Facilities of Penal Services of the Ministry of Justice” of the Law of the Republic of Armenia “On the Custody of Detainees and Prisoners”.
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