Armenian Activist Beaten in Police Custody After Confronting Pro-Government Lawmaker

Prominent Armenian government critic Samvel Vardanyan arrested, allegedly tortured by masked men while in police custody, raising concerns about human rights and democracy in Armenia.

Geeta Pillai
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Armenian Activist Beaten in Police Custody After Confronting Pro-Government Lawmaker

Armenian Activist Beaten in Police Custody After Confronting Pro-Government Lawmaker

Samvel Vardanyan, a prominent Armenian government critic , was arrested on charges of hooliganism after confronting pro-government MP Hakob Aslanyan on a bus in Yerevan on Tuesday. Vardanyan allegedly called Aslanyan, a deputy of the ruling Civil Contract party, an "anti-Armenian scumbag", which sparked an altercation between the two men.

Following his arrest, Vardanyan's lawyers reported that he was subjected to torture and severe beatings by a group of masked men while being transported from the Investigative Committee to a pre-trial detention center. The police officers escorting Vardanyan allegedly left him alone in the vehicle, allowing the attackers to assault him.

Vardanyan's lawyer, Ruben Melikyan, stated that the police had no motive to abuse Vardanyan and that this incident could be considered an order from the ruling party, as evidenced by social media posts from Civil Contract members. Melikyan also noted that the media coverage of the incident should have prompted a criminal investigation, but no such probe has been initiated so far.

Why this matters: The alleged torture of Vardanyan while in police custody has raised concerns about the state of human rights and democracy in Armenia. The incident has drawn condemnation from rights activists and opposition figures, who accuse the government of using violence and intimidation to silence critics.

The former Ombudsman of Armenia, Arman Tatoyan, has called for immediate criminal proceedings against those responsible for the alleged torture, stating that the lawyers' reports are comprehensive and reliable. Tatoyan also highlighted the need to investigate the potential involvement of high-ranking political officials in the incident.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has announced an internal anti-corruption investigation into Vardanyan's claims, while the Human Rights Defender's office has called on the Prosecutor's Office to investigate the case . However, critics argue that these measures are insufficient and that an independent, transparent investigation is necessary to ensure accountability and prevent future abuses.

The incident involving Samvel Vardanyan has further fueled concerns about the decline of democracy and human rights in Armenia under the current government. Opposition figures and rights activists accuse the authorities of consolidating power, dismissing dissent, and lacking transparency. As international organizations and the Council of Europe monitor the situation, pressure mounts on the Armenian government to address the allegations of torture and ensure the protection of fundamental freedoms in the country.

Key Takeaways

  • Prominent critic Samvel Vardanyan arrested on hooliganism charges after confronting MP.
  • Vardanyan allegedly tortured and beaten by masked men while in police custody.
  • Lawyers claim police involvement and possible order from ruling party.
  • Incident raises concerns about human rights and democracy in Armenia.
  • Calls for independent investigation into allegations of torture and abuse.