Crime in Armenia

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.


Sociological explanations of crime in Armenia

The rapid transition from a Communist system to a free-market capitalist system destroyed the socioeconomic structure of Armenia.This allowed certain parties to gain control of privatized state industries and these were the people who had ties to the Russian oligarchs.This created a vast difference between rich and poor which did not exist during the Communist era.

Criminality among Western and Middle Eastern Armenians

Criminal activity among Western and Middle Eastern Armenians is very low when compared to their Russian Armenian compatriots. This can be explained by the fact that Western and Middle Eastern Armenians lived in countries that gave them economic opportunities to succeed. On the other hand, the Soviet Armenians underwent political and economic upheavals (the rapid transition from communism to capitalism), earthquakes, the Nargorno-Karabagh war and the suffocating embargo placed by Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Crime volume and detection rate

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 only 56.8 percent, down from 61.4 percent.[1]

Organized crime and "brotherhoods"

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.[2]

Among the various clans are:

  1. the clan of Aparanyans (the "Nig-Aparan" compatriotic union, headed by the Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepyan)
  2. the Republican Party
  3. the Tsarukyan akhperutyun of Gagik Tsarukyan (Dodi Gago)[2]

Most of the smaller cities, towns, and villages of Armenia are also controlled by a clan or family.

According to sociologist Lyudmila Harutyunyan, Head of the Sociology Chair at Yerevan State University, "An early capitalist-feudal system has emerged in Armenia... The country did not outlive other eras. A slave has become a slave owner. No other model works. The layers that remained in people’s sub-consciousness woke up and at once they restored the feudal order."[2]

Human trafficking

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.[3] A "well-paid job" is very often the bait used to persuade women in difficult social situations to travel abroad.[3]

Sexual exploitation

The United States has repeatedly described Armenia as a major source of illegal transport of women for sexual exploitation abroad.[4] 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.[4] 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."[5] 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.[4] 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.[6] 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.[6]

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.[6]

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).[3]

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.[7]

Recent developments

On April 20, 2009, Anoush Martirosyan, the infamous "Madame Pimp" of Dubai, was sentenced to thirteen years in prison by a Yerevan judge.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[10]

Labor exploitation

Domestic violence

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."[11] Since reporting domestic violence is heavily stigmatized in Armenian society, many of these women have no choice but to remain in abusive situations.[11]


See also


External links

Human trafficking

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