UN experts urge judicial impartiality in Armenia to prevent arbitrary detention
|Publisher||UN News Service|
|Publication Date||16 September 2010|
|Cite as||UN News Service, UN experts urge judicial impartiality in Armenia to prevent arbitrary detention, 16 September 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c9846d41e.html [accessed 26 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The United Nations group of independent experts mandated to investigate arbitrary arrest and detention has urged Armenia to ensure that the independence of the country's judiciary is rigorously protected to guarantee the administration of justice and fair trial.
"The principle of equality of arms between the prosecution and defence is one of the basic prerequisites of a fair trial," said El Hadj Malick Sow, Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in a statement to the Armenian Government yesterday.
"Magistrates and judges as a practice grant requests in favour of the prosecutor whilst rarely giving consideration to those of the defence lawyers," he added.
During an 11-day mission Armenia, the Working Group noted a number of concerns, including what they said were the excessive powers that the police, the national security services and border guards have in arresting and detaining people without arrest warrants.
The Group also expressed grave concern over detainees and prisoners who have been subjected to ill-treatment or beatings at police stations and confessions obtained under duress during investigations.
The lack of use of detention alternatives such as bail and the failure to use early provisional release in situations of good behaviour and justified reintegration to society were also recurrent issues raised by detainees.
Despite ample existing legislation conforming to international standards in relation to the rights of persons in detention, the Working Group considered that a lack of effective implementation of those standards and practices led to situations where violations occurred.
The Working Group also urged the Government to ensure that people are not detained or imprisoned because of their political beliefs, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association is respected.
In his statement, Mr. Sow commended the Government for its progressive efforts to carry out reforms, particularly the Criminal Procedure Code. He also highlighted the attempt to improve physical conditions in the prisons and detention centres. The Working Group was impressed by the good rapport between prisoners and detainees and penitentiary guards, as well as the work of the Ombudsman's office in dealing with many complaints in the past year.
However, "for the judiciary to reach the noble objective of effectively administrating justice, it must ensure that it is independent and impartial," Mr. Sow said.
The Working Group's preliminary recommendations called for the Government to reform the law and practice on remand, in relation to sentencing, noting that current provisions had resulted in lengthy detentions that were disproportionate to crimes committed.
The need to take into consideration the granting of early provisional release and the criteria for granting bail or remanding suspects in detention require tightening up, the Group pointed out.
It also highlighted the importance of ensuring that the rights of refugees and other migrants are protected in conformity with international human rights standards. Asylum-seekers must not be turned away at the border or after detention without an opportunity to make claims in accordance with the international conventions that Armenia has ratified, and other migrants should not be criminalized at border crossings, the Group added.
During its mission, the Working Group met with high-level authorities from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the State. Meetings were also held with representatives of the Bar association, civil society members and representatives of UN agencies and international organizations.
A final report on the visit shall be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next year.