Sunday, March 12, 2006

Committee Investigates Hetq Report
March 6, 2006

On February 23, Edik Baghdasaryan, chairman of the Investigative Journalists of Armenia, was summoned to the Office of the Prosecutor General to provide explanations to a committee set up to verify published findings by investigative journalists.

An excerpt from US State Department report on trafficking published on February 1, 2006:

(See Department of State Releases 2005 Trafficking in Persons Interim Assessment):

On February 16, Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepyan met with the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy, Anthony Godfrey, and the head of the embassy's political department, Cindy Doel. The details of the US State Department report and prospects for future cooperation, were discussed at the meeting.

From the website of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Armenia (

"Despite the fact that the anti-trafficking department at General Prosecution has been in existence for a relatively short time, the embassy finds that the results it has achieved are satisfactory and values the involvement of RA General Prosecution in the process. As a future objective, other agencies and law enforcement organizations should be involved.

"Regarding the implied claims in the report about corrupt prosecution officials it is necessary to take steps as soon as possible to verify the validity of these claims.

"Also during the meeting the sides expressed hope that the prosecution will increase its efforts in the fight against trafficking, and that as a result Armenia will be removed from the list of countries that need to be monitored.

"Armenia's Prosecutor General once again emphasized that he finds unacceptable corrupt behavior on the part of any prosecution official."

The day after the meeting, the prosecutor general ordered the creation of a new committee to investigate media reports. "Using articles published in several Armenian news sources, in particular the NGO Investigative Journalists, as a starting point, the committee should investigate the possibility of the illegal involvement of prosecution and border guard officials in trafficking." The order also mentions that these articles were used in the US State Department report.

Among the members of the committee are head of the Prosecutor General's Office's anti-corruption department Mihran Minasyan; head of the department of organizational supervision Gagik Avetisyan, senior assistant to the prosecutor general Hovhannes Stepanyan, vice president of the National Assembly's organizational supervision committee Gegham Gasparyan, and assistant to the head of the Armenian Government's Supervisory Service Ashot Sedrakyan.

In 2005, Hetq published the results of a year-long investigation in the United Arab Emirates.This investigative series has recently come under the scrutiny of the prosecutor general's new committee. (See also Desert Nights) On February 23 rd , Investigative Journalists chairman Edik Baghdasaryan met with its members.

"Our reporting was researched. The committee asked me to provide video tapes we made in Dubai, on which pimps and victims of trafficking provided the names of prosecution officials. I refused to hand over those tapes because it would threaten the safety of the people on the tapes. I signed a document stating my refusal. I also stated that there was a connection and if there were to be a criminal investigation, it would be possible to achieve results. I answered various questions from the committee members. I had the impression that the committee was really determined to establish the truth. Nevertheless, until their findings are published we cannot say why the committee was created in the first place. We also discussed the lenient sentences given to pimps, and their early release from prison," Baghdasaryan said.

Baghdasaryan also noted that the committee's files include a Radio Liberty interview mentioning the names of different prosecution officials who have visited Dubai.

Kristine Barseghyan

See also: Law-Enforcement Officials Cleared Of Human Trafficking

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