29 prisoners serving life sentences at the Nubarashen Correctional Facility went on hunger strike today according to the Human Rights Defender’s Office in Armenia.
According to Yeranouhie Toumanyan, an advisor to the Human Rights Defender, the lifers launched their hunger strike to protest the fact that Armenia’s Minister of Justice never responded to a letter they sent forty days ago requesting that he visit the prison and hear their complaint regarding their parole eligibility.
In 2011, Armenia’s National Assembly adopted a modification to the criminal code that changed the fifteen year minimum for parole to twenty. Many of the lifers at Nubarashen have already spent over twenty years behind bars.
After the bill was passed 97 of the 104 lifers at the time petitioned the courts for a review of their cases. No reviews were ever ordered.
Robert Mesropyan, who heads the parole department at the HRD, met with the strikers today and says they are demanding to see Minister of Justice Hovhannes Manukyan.
Relatives of the hunger strikers gathered outside the Ministry of Justice in Yerevan to support their loved ones.
Deputy Justice Suren Krmoyan met with Sona Avetisyan, sister of lifer Tigran Avetisyan, in the capacity of the relatives’ spokesperson.
“Those people have served twenty years in jail; my brother for example. But I have no hope that any positive change will happen. These issues haven’t been resolved for many years and they [prisoners] continue to live in despair,” said Sona Avetisyan.
Krmoyan assured her that the minister hasn’t ignored the prisoners’ demands and asked for another month so that the ministry could review the parole procedure.
“At the end of July we will have something precise to say,” Krmoyan said.
Photo: Yeranouhie Toumanyan