SOGI-Based Discrimination in the Judicial System of Armenia
Vulnerable groups in society, including transgender people, repeatedly face conflicts in various sectoral institutions, of which the judicial system is no different.
Jacqueline Arakelyan, a 34-year-old transgender woman, says that she was subjected to physical violence on February 28, 2018. The latter is engaged in sex work. “The accident happened at my place, the customer tried to strangle me, then he hit me on the head, I ran down the aisle to call for help, he pushed me down the stairs from the fifth floor, after which I lost my consciousness.”
A criminal case has been initiated under the first part of Article 112 of the criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia, which is intentionally causing serious damage to health. Afterward, the case was sent to the court and the trial has been in process for two years.
According to Jacqueline Arakelyan, during each court session, she is discriminated, because of her sexual orientation and gender identity. “I am being treated with disrespect in the court. I feel discriminated by the prosecutor and the same was with the two previous judges. They talk to me with contempt and ridicule.”
In court, Jacqueline Arakelyan’s interests are defended by defense-lawyer Ara Gharagyozyan, who also sees discriminatory treatment and negative views against his defendant in the court. According to the defense-lawyer, the cases of discrimination are mainly related to the investigative bodies, the police, and the prosecutor’s office, as they do not conduct an effective investigation for the cases of violence. “We have also stated in court that the judge does not support the accusation. He is officially obliged to defend the charges, but we see that he is doing everything possible to ensure that the accused receives a lenient sentence. ” Ara Gharagyozyan has filed a motion for recusal, but the court has rejected it, and the defense-lawyer can express his position on the impartiality of the court towards trans people after the completion of the above-mentioned lawsuit.
According to Article 63 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, everyone has the right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial court but according to transgender Nona (her name is changed), her rights have been violated. “When they find out your gender identity in court, defending justice becomes a secondary problem for them.” The latter tells that they were standing near the English Park (Komayagi) with three other transgender people when a car approached them, the passengers of which were filming them with a phone. “I closed my face, went up to them and asked to stop filming. The driver stopped the car, got out of it and hit my two other friends. The street camera recorded the whole process from the beginning to the end, it is clearly visible that I am not doing anything, but I am the one accused of hooliganism. ” According to Nona, the trial is being procrastinated for three years.
According to the first part of Article 9 of the Judicial Code of the Republic of Armenia, the examination and resolution of the case shall be carried out within reasonable timeframes. According to Nina Karapetyants, human rights activist and President of the Helsinki Association Human rights NGO in Armenia, the court proceedings in Armenia are regularly delayed, and the problem is systemic. It applies not only to trans* people.
Transgender Nona says that the rights of trans* people in Armenia are not protected judicially. “I am going through such a process and I feel on my own skin that no one wants to protect my rights.”
Nina Karapetyants says that defense-lawyers regularly record negative phenomena: judges and prosecutors often behave uncontrollably when it comes to the LGBT community. “Unfortunately, discrimination against LGBT people in court is expressed not only by gestures but also in words and attitudes, even in tone.”
According to the human rights activist, there is a strong contempt for LGBT people in the prosecutor’s office, in the investigative bodies, and to improve the situation, the bearers of the ideas of human rights not people from the criminal subculture shall work in the system. “There are exceptions as well, there have been a few judges who were quite restrained and balanced and have behaved professionally.”
Nina Karapetyants notes that not only the representatives of the LGBT community are targeted in the court, but also the attorneys defending their rights. “Several years ago, I witnessed an attorney being ridiculed in court. Of course, I intervened and started a debate. According to the human rights activist, any kind of discrimination is inadmissible in the court, as everyone is equal before the law, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Keywords and abbreviations
LGBT – Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.
Transgender – Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their sex assigned at birth.
SOGI – Sexual orientation and gender identity.
The compilation and publication of this material has become possible within the framework of the project on Capacity Building and Empowerment for Protection of LGBTI Human Rights in Armenia implemented by New Generation Humanitarian NGO with the financial support of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of New Generation Humanitarian NGO or the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.