Over 40 political prisoners faced criminal proceedings that appeared to fall short of international fair trial standards. Allegations of ill-treatment of detainees and army conscripts continued. At least four men were sentenced to death. There were no executions. In April, the UN Committee against Torture considered Armenia's initial report under the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee welcomed the integration of prohibitions against torture into the new Constitution adopted in 1995, but recommended, among other things, that torture be mentioned in penal law as a crime in itself and be clearly defined, and that measures be taken to guarantee that no one could be expelled or extradited to other states where they were in danger of being tortured. It asked that reports of ill-treatment of detainees, denied by Armenian delegates at the session, be investigated and the results communicated to the Committee. Presidential elections in September returned President Levon Ter-Petrosyan for a further term. The suspension of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) continued (see Amnesty International Report 1996) and they did not field a candidate. Opposition parties disputed the election results, and reports suggested that over 100 people were detained for short periods, and many beaten, after protests by supporters of opposition candidate Vazgen Manukian became violent. The trial concluded in December of 11 men accused of crimes in connection with their alleged membership of a secret group within the ARF named "Dro" (see Amnesty International Report 1996). Three men Arsen Artsruni, Armen Grigorian and Armenak Mujoyan were sentenced to death, amid continuing allegations that proceedings fell short of international standards for fair trial. Similar claims were made in the case of senior ARF member Vahan Ovanessian (see Amnesty International Report 1996) and 30 others, accused of attempting to stage an armed coup. At their trial, which opened in April, a number of defendants alleged that they had been forced to sign confessions and had been denied full and proper access to a defence lawyer of their choice, especially in pre-trial detention. Manvel Yeghiazarian alleged that he had been assaulted during his arrest in July 1995 and interrogated while still suffering from concussion, bruising and fractured ribs. Other defendants alleged that their families had been threatened. In spite of such allegations, no confessions in this or the so-called "Dro" case were known to have been ruled inadmissible. Dozens of people were said to have been beaten following the disputed presidential elections. For example, four female staff from a non-governmental organization said that they were kicked and beaten with rifle butts by uniformed men who entered their office and confiscated equipment. A member of parliament who was present, Aramazd Zakarian, was reportedly attacked, detained, and again beaten at a police station. He was transferred to hospital two days later with injuries said to include facial cuts, a fractured skull and a broken rib. Reports emerged that army conscripts had been beaten by, at the instigation of, or with the knowledge of senior or non-commissioned officers, and those responsible rarely brought to justice. Amayak Oganesyan was said to have been struck on the head with a spade and knifed in the ribs by a sergeant after joining a unit in June 1995. He was reportedly denied medical treatment for his injuries and threatened with further violence if he complained. After further beatings Amayak Oganesyan was transferred to hospital, where he was reportedly again beaten. He was eventually transferred to a civilian hospital and discharged from the army, diagnosed as suffering from lymphosarcoma. Amayak Oganesyan's father lodged a complaint about his son's treatment in August 1995, but by March 1996 had received no substantive response from the authorities. At least four men were sentenced to death, making a total of around 17 men on death row at the end of the year. There were no executions, as President Ter-Petrosyan personally opposed the death penalty, but no death sentences were known to have been commuted. Amnesty International urged the authorities to conduct a judicial review of the so-called"Dro" case, and called for all reports of ill-treatment to be investigated comprehensively and impartially, with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice. In May, the Minister of Defence denied any involvement by military personnel in attacks on religious minorities the previous year (see Amnesty International Report 1996) but did not indicate what substantive investigations, if any, had taken place into the allegations. Amnesty International continued to call for all pending death sentences to be commuted.
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