Crime in Armenia
Crime in Armenia is multi-dimensional. It includes human trafficking, domestic violence, murder, political murder, contract killing, tax evasion, corruption, extortion, money laundering, police brutality, organized crime, and clan or gang violence.
During the first ten months of 2008, crime in Armenia's capital Yerevan rose nearly 14 percent from the same period in 2007, while the rate of crime detection went down. 3,857 crimes were registered in Yerevan during this period, up by 462 compared to 2007. The rate of crime detection in the cases under investigation was 56.8 percent, down from 61.4 percent.
Crime by type
Organized crime permeates the Armenian economy. Yerevan is controlled by a set of organized, criminal clans known as "akhperutyuns" (Armenian: ախբերություն, or brotherhoods). They assert their power through their position and connections. The various factions sometimes battle for rights over their "turf". The origins of akhperutyuns are criminal law and the tradition of Armenian family life (ojakh). Members are guided by the underworld laws brought from Russian prisons.
Several investigations in recent years have shown that, for purposes of sexual exploitation, women from Armenia are mainly taken to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while labor exploitation mainly occurs in Russia. A "well-paid job" is very often the bait used to persuade women in difficult social situations to travel abroad.
The United States has repeatedly described Armenia as a major source of illegal transport of women for sexual exploitation abroad. Armenia is on a U.S. special "watch list" of nations which the U.S. State Department says are not doing enough to combat trafficking. In a 2006 annual global report on human trafficking, the State Department said that Armenia is a "major source and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation largely to the United Arab Emirates and Turkey."
It criticizes the Armenian authorities who "failed to impose significant penalties for convicted traffickers" and that only a handful of them ended up in jail. The report claims that the Armenian authorities are reluctant to punish law-enforcement officials allegedly cooperating with prostitution networks that recruit and send young women abroad, mainly to the United Arab Emirates. It further cites that a member of the Armenian anti-trafficking unit, Aristakes Yeremian, was implicated by an investigative journalist in extorting bribes from Armenian pimps and prostitutes in Dubai.
In June 2006, a senior Armenian prosecutor dealing with human trafficking admitted that transport of Armenian women for sexual exploitation abroad has reached "alarming" proportions.
According to the President of the Association of Audio-Visual Journalists Arzuman Harutyunyan, some of the 40 women who board a bus from Vanadzor to Turkey every very Friday become victims of human trafficking there (20 of the 40 women who board never return).
In July 2004, Russia’s Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev said that growing cooperation between Russian and Armenian law enforcement bodies has prevented more than one hundred Armenian women from being trafficked abroad for sexual exploitation. According to Nurgaliev, "criminal groups" which have been neutralized planned to transport the mostly young women to third countries, mainly the United Arab Emirates, via Russia. On June 24, 2004, members of a criminal group who were intent on forcing 6 Armenian women into prostitution were arrested.
On April 20, 2009, Anoush Martirosyan, the infamous "Madame Pimp" of Dubai, was sentenced to thirteen years in prison by a Yerevan judge. Martirosyan ran a prostitution ring in Dubai to which she lured girls from Armenia.
According to Hetq, as of October 2008, the number of criminal court cases dealing with human trafficking has gone down dramatically in comparison to years past, which means that either such criminal cases have decreased or law enforcement officials are finding it harder to expose such incidents. Upon further investigation, Hetq was notified by the Police that "the Police Department of Armenia is in pursuit of 16 individuals in accordance with Article 132 of the ROA Criminal Code." Hetq has found it "a bit strange" that the Police Department is not releasing the full names nor the photographs of the individuals being sought, with the Police claiming it is "classified information" which is in contrast to other such investigations. According to Hetq, it is likely that these individuals continue to operate in Armenia.
In late 2007, the Armenian government initiated a three-year plan aimed at cracking down on human trafficking, forming a special inter-agency body to coordinate the efforts. According to the police department in Armenia, the number of individuals imprisoned in Armenia for human trafficking and officially identified as victims of the illegal practice has more than doubled in 2008. Armenian law-enforcement authorities have prosecuted 17 persons on relevant charges during the first ten months of 2008, of which 10 of them have already been convicted and given prison sentences. Victims of sexual trade have been sent to non-governmental special rehabilitation centers and others have been repatriated to Armenia, mainly from the United Arab Emirates. The police attributed the successful crackdown to the toughening of the Armenian government’s fight against human trafficking.
According to a 2008 study by Amnesty International, more than a quarter of women in Armenia "have faced physical violence at the hands of husbands or other family members." Since reporting domestic violence is heavily stigmatized in Armenian society, many of these women have no choice but to remain in abusive situations.
- Yerevan Police Report Rise in Crime in 2008, Armenia Liberty (RFE/RL), November 19, 2008.
- Ishkhanyan, Vahan (March 3, 2006). "Mean Streets: A rare look at Armenia’s Capital clans". ArmeniaNow. Retrieved June 30, 2009.
- Selling Souls: Officials under pressure to step up the fight against people trafficking, ArmeniaNow.com, October 20, 2006.
- Yerevan To Adopt New Anti-Trafficking Plan, Armenia Liberty (RFE/RL), September 5, 2007.
- U.S. Keeps Armenia On Human Trafficking ‘Watch List’, Armenia Liberty (RFE/RL), June 6, 2006.
- Armenian Prosecutor ‘Alarmed’ By Human Trafficking, Armenia Liberty (RFE/RL), June 7, 2006.
- Russian Police ‘Helping Stop Human Trafficking From Armenia’, Armenia Liberty (RFE/RL), July 2, 2004.
- Davtyan, Ararat (April 20, 2009). ""Madame Anoush", Infamous Pimp of Dubai, Sentenced to 13 Years". Hetq Online. Retrieved May 14, 2009.
- 16 Individuals Suspected of Human Trafficking are Sought by Police, Hetq, October 20, 2008.
- Armenian Police Report Surge In Trafficking Convictions, Armenia Liberty, December 5, 2008.
- There’s no pride in silence: domestic and sexual violence against women in Armenia, Amnesty International, November 13, 2008
- "Strengthening Cooperation between the National Assembly, Civil Society and the Media in the Fight Against Corruption", Speech by Ms. Consuelo Vidal, (UN RC / UNDP RR), April 6, 2006.