Study on ill-treatment and torture of juveniles in Armenia reveals serious violations of child rights
YEREVAN, 13 March 2013 – UNICEF together with the European Union, Human Rights Defender’s office, the Civil Society Institute, and in partnership with Penal Reform International launched today findings of a study on ill-treatment and torture of juveniles in Armenia in the context of juvenile justice.
The First Counsellor of EU Delegation in Armenia, Mr. Onno Simons, and UNICEF Representative in Armenia, Ms. Henriette Ahrens, launching the Study on Ill-Treatment and Torture of Juveniles in Armenia in the context of Juvenile Justice - UNICEF Armenia / 2013
The study which was carried out within the framework of the EU-funded project “Reaching Critical Mass: Consolidation of Juvenile Justice System Reforms Against Torture and Other Forms of Ill-Treatment in European Neighbouring Countries” reveals a number of serious violations of the rights of juveniles before and during trial as well as while serving their sentence in penitentiaries.
Out of 82 juveniles interviewed for the study about 21 per cent were not informed about the reasons for their arrest, while 42 per cent did not read the arrest protocol before signing it. Although in the majority of cases juveniles were informed about their rights during detention or arrest, 31 per cent of them admitted that they were never informed about their rights. In the majority of cases advocates were not present during the first interrogation of a juvenile, according to the study.
Interviews with juveniles also revealed that the most common forms of ill-treatment were beating and physical pressure exerted by the police to obtain confession. 8 children mentioned that they were subjected to physical violence in the Police stations. Speaking of the sentences passed and performance of judges during trials, half of the interviewed juveniles agreed that they were fair, while 32 percent admitted that neither judge nor punishment were fair, invoking their previous conviction experience.
“The UN Convention on Child Rights envisages development and implementation of a comprehensive policy on juvenile justice, whereas today the protection of juvenile delinquents in Armenia is not undertaken with efficiency. Juvenile court proceedings are not conducted in a child-friendly language, children’s best interests, their age often are not considered,” Armenia’s Ombudsman Karen Andreasyan stressed, adding that the study identified a lot of faults for which a number of complex activities need to be undertaken.
“Policy and legislation are not the only sectors where actions are required to ensure the protection of children exposed to ill-treatment. Effective intervention in support to the victims, and prevention initiatives, require the setup of cooperating mechanism among various professionals, from the police and justice representatives to social workers and psychologists,” UNICEF Representative in Armenia Henriette Ahrens said, pointing out that community justice centres already existing in Armenia can play crucial role both in providing rehabilitative services for children in contact and in conflict with the law and their families and victims and in facilitating the identification and reporting of torture and ill-treatment episodes.
"The European Union is committed to supporting the establishment of a comprehensive juvenile justice system, and in particular reforms against torture and ill-treatment," noted the First Counsellor of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Mr. Onno Simons. He also touched upon that the findings of the report and urged for measures to address those.
The study not only provides evidence, but also calls for concrete actions to be implemented to ensure the rights of children in contact and in conflict with the law, placing particular emphasis on legislative amendments to bring them in compliance with international documents and prohibiting ill-treatment and torture, especially towards children. In addition, the study calls for broader application of alternatives to imprisonment for juvenile delinquents and closer cooperation among various community services for their rehabilitation and re-integration into the society.
About the project
The 3.5-year project “Reaching Critical Mass: Consolidation of Juvenile Justice System Reforms Against Torture and Other Forms of Ill-Treatment in European Neighbouring Countries” is being implemented in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Tajikistan. The project aims at supporting legislative reforms in the area of juvenile justice, capacity building of juvenile justice professionals, development of alternatives to imprisonment, research on rehabilitation needs of victims of torture and ill-treatment by monitoring bodies and human rights NGOs. The total cost of the project is 1.5 million EURO, of which 1.2 million EURO were allocated by the European Union and 300,000 EURO by UNICEF.
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