Covert video unveils numerous violations in Armenian prisons
The Armenian National Security Service has carried out an inspection of the country’s penitentiary institutions and uncovered a number of violations.
The results of the inspection were published in a video – now, all of Armenia is discussing the findings.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan recently criticized Minister of Justice Artak Zeynalyan for issues in the country’s penitentiary system.
Pashinyan said that a number of prisoners continue to be in a privileged position as their cells are not checked and they have phones in their possession.
“How can you justify the cells of some prisoners not being checked, And at the same time, the director of this penitentiary institution continues to hold office? In Armenia, many crimes are organized from prisons with the help of telephones.”
In response, the minister said that all the cells were periodically checked, and asked for proof to the contrary.
A few days after this incident, the National Security Service posted a video which shows various violations. In particular, one can openly see Wi-Fi devices, tablets, phone cards and mobile phones in the prison.
Some cells had open flaps through which food and other items are transferred.
Reaction of the ministry to the video
The Minister of Justice of Armenia Artak Zeynalyan has announced the start of an official investigation to verify the facts presented:
“All answers to questions will be given – what is true, what is exaggerated and what is not [true].”
Zeynalyan also commented on the fact that the doors of one of the cells were open.
He said it is necessary to check whether anyone was housed in the particular cell. He added that the living conditions could also be the reason that the doors of the cells were open. In some prisons there is no ventilation system, as a result of which employees of criminal institutions are forced to open windows to air the premises.
“If the cell is empty, what difference does it make whether the door is open or not? If there is no ventilation system and the cell is damp, for example, due to an issue with the water supply system, is it possible to open the windows of the doors? Or is it impossible to examine the entire cell due to the fact that standards are not met in penitentiary institutions? There are a lot of questions.”
Daniel Ioannisyan, head of the Public Association of Informed Citizens, believes that the National Security Service does not have the authority to conduct inspections in penal institutions:
“The National Security Service has entered a realm that is beyond its competence – to determine whether there are [privileged prisoners] is not a matter of the National Security Service. I am not saying that everything is good in such institutions, and I do not assert that the Ministry of Justice works perfectly. But this does not mean that the ministry should be checked by the National Security Service.”