A senior police officer in Dilijan, north Armenia, is facing criminal prosecution after beating a minor working as a waiter. While the incident was reported in May, a criminal case against the officer was only reopened after a video of the incident was widely shared on social media.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee stated that while Arsen Ghaitmazyan, the head of the criminal department of the town’s police force, beat the teenager on 10 April, the victim’s parents only addressed law enforcement agencies on 10 May, reports RFE/RL.
Armenian news outlet Armlur.am on Thursday published a one-minute video in which an adult man can be seen attacking a teenager, pulling him around a kitchen and repeatedly hitting him. At the end of the video, the victim, reported to be either 16 or 17 years old, is seen running away from his attacker.
The young man’s lawyer, Sasun Rafayelyan, told RFE/RL that Ghaitmazyan arrived at the hotel drunk, and wanted to rent a hotel room.
The minor, who was an employee of the Haghartsin restaurant and hotel complex in Dilijan, asked Ghaitmazyan how long he wanted to stay at the hotel and noted that payment was required in advance. Ghaitmazyan disagreed and stated that he would ‘pay whenever he wanted’, said Rafayelyan, before beginning the conflict.
The video also shows another person present in the kitchen throughout the incident, who does not make any attempt to intervene. The bystander has not yet been publicly identified.
The incident was reported on 10 May, and a criminal case opened on the same day, said Gor Abramyan, the spokesperson for Armenia’s Investigative Committee. However, the prosecutor’s office then decided not to charge Ghaitmazyan due to his admission of guilt, ‘active remorse’, cooperation with the investigation, and the fact that ‘bodily injuries’ were not observed on the victim.
The minor’s lawyer, however, argued that the decision not to charge Ghaitmazyan was attributable to ‘patronage’.
After the video was widely shared on 1 June, sparking public criticism of the police officer and corresponding law enforcement processes, Armenia’s Prosecutor General announced that a case had been reopened against Ghaitmazyan.
The statement, published on 2 June, added that Ghaitmazyan’s actions had caused the minor ‘severe physical pain’, while also noting that the investigation would additionally assess possible violations of child labour laws by the hotel and restaurant.
Daniel Ioannisyan, head of the Union of Informed Citizens, a prominent Armenian NGO, and a former member of Armenia’s Police Reform Commission, told RFE/RL on Friday that law enforcement officials have repeatedly gone unpunished after physically assaulting citizens, and suggested that police chief Vahe Ghazaryan did not want to reform the system.
‘Vahe Ghazaryan, it seems to me, is simply against real deep reforms, he wants people to be afraid of the police, that is the good state he imagines,’ said Ioannisyan.
If Ghaitmazyan is found guilty, he reportedly faces imprisonment for up to two months, or ‘restriction of freedom’ for two years.
Multiple outlets have reported that Ghaitmazyan was suspended from his official duties but are unclear as to when this took place, with some claiming this had been the case since 5 May. OC Media was unable to directly verify this information.