Thursday, April 27, 2006

Light Sentences for Trafficking Ring
[April 10, 2006]

“I didn't tell my parents I was going to Dubai—they wouldn't have let me go—even though I thought I was going to have a normal job there. I couldn't ask them for help once I was here [Dubai], since I was always watched when I talked to my parents on the phone. I talked to my brother, but he is too young to tell about this kind of thing. I lied to my family. I had no other choice. We were in a bad situation and I wanted to help. And I said that I was going to Moscow, to my husband, but… I never imagined what was going to happen, what kind of things Armenian girls were doing in Dubai,” said Marine (not her real name), a resident of the village of Aragats, and yet another victim of trafficking.

Marine was tricked into going to Dubai and forced into sexual exploitation. She wasn't afraid to testify against the gang that forced her into prostitution.

In 2005 the Office of the Prosecutor General discovered a ring of human traffickers who were recruiting girls from Armenia and sending them, via Moscow, to Dubai. On August 24, prosecutors charged four members of the gang, Patvakan Malkhasyan, Nanasil Arakelyan, Simon Nersisyan, and Tamara Makarova, with violating Article 132, Part 2 (human trafficking) of the Armenian Criminal Code.

In November 2005, the four were convicted and sentenced in Armavir's Court of First Instance. Tamara Makarova, Simon Nersisyan, and Patvakan Malkhasyan received two years each, and Nanasil Arakelyan was sentenced to five years and four months (See also The Court is Soft on Human Trafficking).

The Office of the Prosecutor General, deeming the sentences too light, appealed the verdict.

“The court did not take into account the danger that the crime posed to society, it did not take into account the character of the defendants, and the sentences it issued were clearly too lenient,” said Armen Boshnagyan, senior prosecutor with the department responsible for trafficking and illegal immigration department.

In 2000, Tamara Makarova, a 44-year-old resident of Abovyan visited Dubai, staying at the home of Anahit Malkhasyan (aka Dbr Ano), who had previously been convicted of pimping and other crimes. Under Dbr Ano's supervision, Tamara began to work as a prostitute, but after some time she was caught and deported to Armenia.

Later, Dbr Ano suggested to Tamara that she recruit girls by promising them jobs as maids or babysitters, and send them to Dubai. Ano offered to pay her $300 per girl. Tamara then told her neighbor Ruzana about high paying work as a babysitter or maid in Dubai. Two days later Ruzana gave her passport to Tamara in order to receive an entry visa to United Arab Emirates. Dbr Ano instructed Tamara to send Ruzana to Simon Nersisyan, who would then transport her to Dubai.

Around the same time, Dbr Ano's friend Nanasil Arakelyan, convicted in November 2004 for organizing prostitution, sent Marine to Ano's brother Patvakan Malkhasyan (who was living in the village of Voskehat village at the time), in order to transport her to Dubai.

Afterwards, the two women were sent to Moscow, where they were met by a man named Vazrik “They kept us in an apartment for one day, and then they gave us new passports and we flew to Dubai,” Marine said.

In Dubai, the girls were met by Anahit Malkhasyan, who took their passports and forced them to work as prostitutes or return the money that had been spent on their transportation, approximately $15,000 dollars. Ruzana explained that during her time in Dubai she turned over more than $20,000 to her boss Anahit.

“I called home once, but I didn't say anything, because Anahit was listening. I was afraid to call in secret. One time, a girl got really badly beaten up for doing that. Only she [Anahit] recharged our mobile phones. We would get at least $500 from each client, but we never had any money ourselves—she would collect it all. We couldn't even lie, since a lot of the girls who were working with us would tell Anahit everything,” Marine explained.

In appellate court, the trial went pretty much the same way it had in the first instance. The victims testified and the defendants continued to insist that they were not guilty, that the girls had gone to Dubai of their own free will, and that they [the defendants] had not known what type of work the girls were headed for in Dubai.

On March 2, 2006 the court of Appeals, Judge Mher Adamyan presiding, issued a verdict. The court had reclassified the charges, replacing Article 132(Human Trafficking) with Article 262 (Organization of Prostitution). The court sentenced Patvakan Malkhasyan, Tamara Makarava, and Simon Nersisyan to two years in prison. Nanasil Arakelyan received three years and ten months.

The prosecution believes that there was no reason for the reclassification, and that once again, the sentences are too lenient. Prosecutor Armen Boshangyan said that they have appealed the sentence.

Varduhi Zakaryan

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