Vardanyan and Khalafyan v. Armenia (Application no. 2265/12)

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgement.

90.  The Court further observes that the investigation into the circumstances of Vahan Khalafyan’s ill-treatment was conducted in a similar manner. The authorities’ findings were similarly based entirely on the statements of the same police officers (see paragraphs 24, 25 and 28 above), without giving any consideration to the lack of trustworthiness of those witnesses, and were similarly hastily accepted as the only version, without exploring any other possible scenarios, including the possibility of there being more than one perpetrator of ill-treatment. The circumstances of the illtreatment inflicted on Vahan Khalafyan were presented in a very abstract manner, lacked detail and gave the impression of being limited to two brief episodes: one early in the morning in A.H.’s office and another around 5 p.m. in K.M.’s office. The Court notes, however, that Vahan Khalafyan had in fact stayed at the police station for around eight hours before the stabbing incident took place. During that entire period he was in a very vulnerable condition; his arrest not being based on a valid arrest warrant and instead being justified by the need to “have a talk” with him, his deprivation of liberty not being recorded and him being deprived of any rights enjoyed by a suspect. It cannot be said that the authorities made sufficient and genuine efforts to establish all the circumstances of the treatment he was subjected to during such rather long period of time and while being in such a precarious situation, as well as to clarify the numerous contradictions in the police officers’ accounts of events. 

91.  Lastly, the Court cannot overlook the fact that, even if one of the police officers was eventually found guilty of inflicting violence on Vahan Khalafyan, an amnesty was applied to him, resulting in a reduced sentence (see paragraph 52 above). However, the Court has already held that amnesties and pardons should not be tolerated in cases concerning torture or illtreatment inflicted by State agents (see Yeter v. Turkey, no. 33750/03, § 70, 13 January 2009, and Mocanu and Others, cited above, § 326). This principle was similarly not respected in the present case. 

92.  The foregoing is sufficient for the Court to conclude that the authorities have failed to carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances of Vahan Khalafyan’s death and ill-treatment. Having reached this conclusion, the Court does not find it necessary to determine also as to whether, at the material time, there was a systemic problem in the Armenian legal system as regards the availability of adequate remedies in cases concerning acts of torture (see paragraph 75 above). 

95.  In the present case, the Court notes that the criminal case regarding Vahan Khalafyan’s death and ill-treatment went to trial and two police officers were eventually found guilty, one of them specifically for having illtreated Vahan Khalafyan (see paragraph 49 above). However, as already established above, the investigation in that criminal case was not thorough and effective and was conducted with serious breaches of the procedural requirements of Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention. Consequently, it cannot be said that the State provided adequate and sufficient redress for the alleged breaches of those provisions. The Court therefore considers that the applicants can still claim to be victims of an alleged violation of both substantive and procedural aspects of Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention and rejects the Government’s first objection. 

96.  The Court finds that the investigation conducted at the national level was so manifestly inadequate and left so many important questions unanswered that it was not capable of establishing the true circumstances surrounding the death of the applicants’ relative. The Court is therefore unable to accept the conclusions reached at the end of that investigation as reliable, especially that they were not supported by any objective evidence (compare Gulyan, cited above, § 91, and the cases cited therein). While the applicants’ argument that Vahan Khalafyan had died from brain damage appears to be in direct conflict with the conclusions of the forensic medical expert as to the cause of his death (see paragraph 17 above), it is not the Court’s task to establish the cause of the victim’s death. As regards the substantive limb of Article 2 of the Convention, the Court finds that the explanation provided by the Government for his death and injuries suffered in police custody was not satisfactory, sufficient and convincing. They have therefore failed in their duty to account for Vahan Khalafyan’s treatment in custody and thereby to discharge the burden of proof which rested on the authorities. 

97.  There has accordingly been a violation of the substantive aspect of Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention. 


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