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Minister of Justice touches upon regulations of the Law "On amnesty" at a meeting with journalists

02/11/2018

In celebration of the 2,800th anniversary of foundation of Erebuni-Yerevan and the 100th anniversary of the declaration of independence of the First Republic of Armenia, upon recommendation of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, the National Assembly, with 75 “for”, 0 “against” and 0 abstinence votes, unanimously adopted the draft law on declaring amnesty during the session of 1 November 2018.

During a meeting with journalists today, the Acting Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia touched upon the regulations of the law.

The Acting Minister reaffirmed his assertion that this amnesty is not aimed at easing the burden of penitentiary institutions, as penitentiary institutions do not have a work overload. "It is a humanitarian step taken by the State and pursues similar purposes,” Artak Zeynalyan said.

Touching upon the content of this amnesty, the Acting Minister stated that the amnesty really pretends to be extensive, if not the most extensive.

Thus:

1.     Whereas, by previous amnesty acts, persons sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three or up to five years were released from punishment in case of existence of certain conditions, by this amnesty act, the mentioned maximum threshold has been raised. In particular, the opportunity of being released from punishment shall be granted to persons sentenced to imprisonment for a term of up to four years instead of the previous three years and to persons sentenced to imprisonment for a term of up to six years instead of the previous five years. Moreover, it should be mentioned that the threshold of four and six years shall be effective for both intentionally and negligently committed crimes.

2.     The threshold of imprisonment for a term of four and six years has been similarly applied also in cases when institution of a criminal case is rejected or a criminal case is discontinued or no criminal prosecution is pursued or criminal prosecution is terminated. Moreover, for the purpose of guaranteeing the rights of victims, it has been envisaged not to apply the mentioned manifestations of amnesty in the pre-trial and trial stages in case of incidents having directly led to human death, with regard to which there is an objection from the victim’s legal successor.

3.     A certain social group has been separated, and persons included in that social group may be released from punishment, if they have been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not five years, as it was in the past, but for a term of up to six years. For example, the group includes disabled persons of first or second group, pregnant women, persons having a child under the age of three, persons having attained the age of 60, persons having committed a crime prior to attaining the age of 18 and others. With regard to the social group, the novelty of this amnesty is that persons sentenced to imprisonment for a term of up to six years, who have three or more children, will also be released from punishment.

4.     The rule of commuting the unserved part of the imposed punishment through amnesty has been amended. By this amnesty, the very punishment imposed will be commuted, not the unserved part of the punishment of a person, prescribed by a judicial act having entered into legal force. To make it clearer, I would like to say that in the past, the unserved part of the punishment imposed against a person was commuted in a relevant amount, which might constitute a very small part compared with the punishment imposed; today, the punishment imposed against a person shall be commuted, which will, in its turn, increase the number of beneficiaries of amnesty.

5.     Although the unserved part of the punishment of persons convicted for certain crimes is commuted by amnesty (for example, murder without aggravating circumstances, robbery, intentionally causing grave harm to health, without aggravating circumstances), taking into account the nature and public danger of those crimes, the approach for commuting the unserved part of the punishment for six months was accepted by the previous amnesty acts. By this amnesty, it is envisaged to commute the punishment imposed against persons convicted for the crimes of the mentioned group for nine months instead of the previous six months. The number of beneficiaries of amnesty has also increased as a result of this amendment.

6.     Touching upon the issue of providing compensation for the damage caused to a victim as a necessary precondition for the application of amnesty, it is necessary to emphasise that refusal to initiate a case, dismissal of proceedings and termination of criminal prosecution on the ground of amnesty in pre-trial and trial proceedings shall not be permitted, where the damage caused has not been compensated or settled in other way, or there exists a dispute with regard to the damage subject to compensation. This is the general policy adopted by the State in the mentioned stages in terms of guaranteeing the rights of victims.

As for the issue of compensating the damage caused to a victim by the criminal judgment having entered into legal force, it is subject to settlement as prescribed by the Civil Procedure Code. This means that, in this case, the mentioned circumstance may not be considered as a ground for non-application of amnesty.

The following presents amnesty in potential figures:

Thus:

(1)    Out of 2892 persons being kept at penitentiary institutions (1057 detainees and 1835 convicts), about 469 persons will immediately be released from punishment, and the sentence of 366 persons, provided for by the criminal judgment having entered into legal force, will be commuted in a relevant amount. Overall, out of 1835 convicts being kept at penitentiary institutions, about 835 will be granted amnesty, and this will constitute around 45.5% of the convicts. For comparison, I would like to mention that 3571 convicts were kept at penitentiary institutions during the previous amnesty.

(2)    Out of around 3800 probation beneficiaries, nearly 2700 persons will be granted amnesty, releasing them from punishment or terminating supervision carried out over them. Overall, 71% of the probation beneficiaries will be granted amnesty. As compared to this amnesty, by the previous amnesty, 1212 convicts were released from serving the punishment with regard to non-custodial sentences.

(3)    Around 3000 persons involved in cases pending in the proceedings of the body conducting proceedings will be granted amnesty.

As a result, overall, around 6500 persons being kept at penitentiary institutions, probation beneficiaries and persons involved in cases pending in proceedings of the body conducting proceedings will be granted amnesty. Moreover, it should be mentioned that this number has a tendency to grow.

"I find it necessary to mention that I am stating the minimum figures concerning the volume of amnesty, as during this period, convicts may submit documents serving as a ground for granting them amnesty, but are not available in their personal files. For example, such documents may be birth certificate of a child or birth certificates of children, documents on participation in the war or on having disability. I think that the volumes of amnesty will be more than the volumes that I have stated.

In closing, I would like to place special emphasis on the fact that this amnesty is neither an end in itself nor is it aimed at solving the problems of the State and easing the burden of penitentiary institutions. There was another purpose of amnesty, and the purpose was to solve the problems of persons having committed an act provided for in the Criminal Code or of persons accused of committing such an act, not the problems of the State, as well as to provide those persons with a new opportunity to be corrected, start a new life and become a full-fledged member of the society in new Armenia. We have made an attempt to not only solve the problems of convicts or the accused, but also to create favourable conditions for their families, enabling the mentioned persons to take full care of their children, parents and spouses upon their return to their families.

Taking the opportunity, I would like to address all those persons, who will be released from punishment or those against whom criminal prosecution will be terminated and say the following:

Refrain from committing crimes. Take advantage of another opportunity that the State and the society have given to you, become full-fledged members of the society, be with your families and earn a living for you and your families through fair work, not by committing crimes," Artak Zeynalyan concluded.

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