The 1995 Constitution of Armenia (as amended) guarantees the rights to dignity, life, and freedom from inhumane treatment, as well as the right of peaceful assembly.
According to Article 23, "Human dignity is inviolable." Article 24 provides that:
1. Everyone shall have the right to life.
2. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of life.
Article 26 stipulates that:
1. No one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
2. Corporal punishments shall be prohibited.
3. Persons deprived of liberty shall have the right to humane treatment.
The right to freedom of assembly is addressed in Article 44:
1. Everyone shall have the right to freely organize and participate in peaceful and unarmed assemblies.
2. In cases stipulated by law, outdoor assemblies shall be conducted on the basis of prior notification given within a reasonable period. No notification shall be required for spontaneous assemblies.
3. The law may prescribe restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly for judges, prosecutors, investigators, as well as servicemen of the armed forces, the national security, the police, and other militarized bodies.
4. The conditions and procedure of exercising and protecting the freedom of assembly shall be stipulated by law.
5. The freedom of assembly may be restricted only by law with the aim of protecting state security, preventing crimes, protecting the public order, health and morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
The Constitution does not specifically regulate the use of force by the police or other law enforcement agencies.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Signatory|
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
The use of force by the Armenian Police is regulated by the 2001 Law on Police. Article 29 of this law stipulates that the use of force and firearms shall be an "exceptional measure". Article 30 provides that:
In case of preventing or disrupting offences, capturing offenders and transferring them to the Police, failing to follow the lawful demands of the police officer or showing resistance, as well as for the purpose of self-defence a police officer shall have the right to discharge physical force against offenders (including hand-to-hand combat techniques), as well as necessary objects at disposal if non-forcible means fail to ensure the fulfilment of obligations imposed on the Police.
With respect to firearms, Article 32 provides that police officers are entitled to discharge firearms in case of:
(1) defending citizens from attacks dangerous to the life or health thereof;
(2) repulsing the attack made upon a police officer when his or her life or health is endangered, as well as in case of preventing the attempt of taking possession of the weapon thereof;
(3) releasing hostages, as well as captured facilities subject to state protection;
(4) arresting persons captured at the moment of committing a grave or particularly grave crime against the life, health, property and making an attempt to escape, as well as those showing armed resistance;
(5) repulsing group or armed attacks made upon apartments of citizens, territories occupied by state bodies, organisations, facilities subject to state protection, as well as upon accompanying subdivisions;
(6) capturing or precluding the escape of the persons arrested on the suspicion of committing a grave or particularly grave crime against life, health, property, those having escaped from the places of detention or confinement, as well as in case of repulsing their violent attempts of release;
The discharge of firearms against women with noticeable signs of pregnancy, obviously disabled persons and minors (with the exception of cases of their armed or group attacks and armed resistance dangerous for the life of citizens), as well as in case of considerable crowds of people when other persons may suffer from discharge of firearms, shall be prohibited.
This is more permissive than international law allows.
The 2011 Guidelines on Public Order Management and Use of Force state that:
The principles on the use of force highlight that at times there will be a necessity for its use and where deemed appropriate it must result from a legal and lawful action. The amount of force applied must be proportionate i.e. no more than the minimum required to achieve the objective.
The Guidelines refer to the duty to comply with the rules laid down in the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms but these guidelines do not override domestic law. It is therefore necessary to amend the Police Law to respect international law.
The National Ombudsman (Human Rights Defender) is competent to deal with complaints against the police.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2021 Concluding Observations on Armenia, the Human Rights Committee noted the initiation of criminal proceedings for excessive use of force by police officers during protests in March 2008, June 2015, July 2016 and April 2018, as well as the provision of redress for a number of victims or families of victims. The Committee remained concerned, however, about the lack of accountability of law enforcement officers in such cases. The Committee was also concerned about reports of:
(a) unjustifiable police interference in and disproportionate presence at peaceful demonstrations; (b) arbitrary and prolonged detention of assembly participants without ensuring fundamental legal safeguards; (c) criminal proceedings initiated against assembly participants; and (d) the continued failure by the competent authorities to promptly investigate violations by the police of the right to peaceful assembly and to bring perpetrators to justice.
In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Armenia, the Committee against Torture expressed its concern
at consistent reports of excessive use of force against protesters, including during the so-called Electric Yerevan protests of June 2015, when police used water cannons to disperse the demonstration and illegally detained 237 protesters. It is also concerned at the reported use of excessive force by law enforcement officials during the demonstrations of 17 to 31 July 2016, following the attack on a patrol service police regiment in Yerevan by a group of armed men....
The Committee called on Armenia to:
(a) Ensure that prompt, impartial and effective investigations are undertaken into all such allegations, that the perpetrators are prosecuted and that the victims are provided with redress;
(b) Ensure that all law enforcement officers receive systematic training on the use of force, especially in the context of demonstrations, and the employment of non-violent means and crowd control, and that the principles of necessity and proportionality are strictly adhered to in practice during the policing of demonstrations.
Mushegh Saghatelyan v. Armenia (2018)
This case concerned alleged police violence against a civil servant for political reasons linked to presidential elections in 2008. The applicant claimed that police officers
forced him out of the taxi and started kicking, punching and hitting him with rubber batons. He had then lost consciousness and been transported to Kentron Police Station. ...
The applicant further alleged that upon his arrival at Kentron Police Station the same persons had continued to beat and humiliate him. Different parts of his body had been hit, including his head and legs, as a result of which he had fallen on the floor, bleeding and unable to get up. He had then been hit on the head again, which had resulted in concussion and loss of consciousness. Twice an ambulance had been called to provide medical assistance. His ill-treatment had been inflicted upon the instructions of the police chief.
Ayvazyan v. Armenia (2017)
This case concerned the fatal shooting of a man with serious mental health issues who was claimed at the time to be endangering the lives of police officers. The European Court held that:
the police operation was mounted in response to the violent behaviour demonstrated earlier that day by Seyran Ayvazyan, who was mentally ill, whereby three persons had been injured, including two civilians and one police officer. Thus, the police officers were facing an alarming situation in which they were to neutralise and arrest a mentally ill and violent person whose actions were unpredictable.
The Court noted, however, that
at the time when the police squad arrived at the scene Seyran Ayvazyan was already inside his house and, after the police had sealed off the area, he cannot be said to have posed an immediate and serious threat to any third party. While shouting threats and making threatening gestures through the windows, he did not, however, make any attempts to flee or to launch an attack. This situation lasted for several hours. Thus, the police officers can be said to have had time at their disposal to plan the arrest operation, as opposed to having to deal with a random operation which may have given rise to unexpected developments to which the police may have been called upon to react without prior preparation....
It appears that the arrest operation was overseen by the chief of Tumanyan police station. It further appears that the police officers first tried to persuade Seyran Ayvazyan to surrender himself. It is not clear what methods exactly were used but it does not appear that a medical or other similar professional was involved in this process. It is not certain that the involvement of such a professional would have produced a different result, but since Seyran Ayvazyan’s violent behaviour appears to have been caused by his medical condition, the police officers should have at least tried that option.
The Court further noted that
there was no specially trained or designated squad deployed to deal with the situation; rather, the operation was entrusted to the officers of a nearby police station and their chief.... While the Police Act required police officers to undergo “special training”, the Government did not provide any details of the training (if any) that the police officers in question had undergone and whether such training had included any techniques for handling situations similar to the one in question. Nor do the police officers appear to have been equipped with any specialised protective uniforms or gear. Thus, they had to make do with whatever they had at hand, thereby increasing significantly the risk of their having to resort to lethal weapons in the event of a possible attack. Judging by the way the events seem to have unfolded thereafter it does not appear that the police officers had a clear plan as to how to effect the arrest in the given circumstances.
The Court found that the authorities had failed "to comply with their obligation to minimise the risk of loss of life. The manner in which the operation was planned and controlled cannot be said to have demonstrated sufficient consideration for the pre‑eminence of the right to life." Accordingly, the Court found a substantive violation of Article 2 of the European Convention as regards the planning and the control of the police operation.