On December 15, 2021, at the court of first instance in the city of Yerevan, a hearing was held on the application of detention in custody of N. Mantashyan. Since the court hearings on the use of detention as a measure of restraint in Armenia are held behind closed doors, information about the court session became available through the lawyer of N. Mantashyan, who held a press release before and after the hearing.
Back in November 2020, N. Mantashyan was charged with participation in mass riots, he was arrested. A motion was filed with the court for the application of detention, but the motion was rejected due to the absence of “reasonable suspicion”. The term “reasonable suspicion” is used by the European Court of Human Rights to denote a prerequisite for a person’s detention. On the question of the nature of a reasonable suspicion, the ECtHR notes that such a suspicion means the existence of facts or information that can convince an objective observer that a person may have committed a crime (ECtHR Decision “Fox, Campbell and Hartley v. The United Kingdom” of August 30, 1990, No. (cases N 12244/86, 12245/86, 12383/86)).
A person may be detained in accordance with Article 5 § 1 (c) of the European Convention in the context of criminal proceedings with the aim of bringing him before the competent law enforcement authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offense. The “reasonableness” of the suspicion on which the restriction of freedom should be based, according to the ECtHR, constitutes an essential part of the guarantee set forth in subparagraph “c” of paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Convention. In addition, the premise “reasonable suspicion” means the existence of facts or information that could convince an objective observer that the person concerned may have committed an offense. However, what may be considered “reasonable” depends on all the circumstances of the case. (The judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on applications N 10780/07 and 54004/07 “Achilov and others v. The Russian Federation”, issued and entered into force on June 9, 2020, paragraph 77).
Approximately a year after the investigation, the charges against N. Mantashyan were changed and a new charge was brought against him of organizing, participating in mass riots and robbery.
In December 2021, after a four-hour hearing in this case, the court ruled on the application of detention as a measure of restraint for the accused.
In the course of studying the materials of the trial, the ISHR experts revealed facts that suggest that the trial of N. Mantashyan is being conducted in violation of the right to a fair trial. There is a constant “renewal” of the accusations, the ISHR has already faced a similar situation in the case of E. Mefedov (Ukraine). In such situations, the new charge is identical to the previous charge, the same evidence is used, the same actions are charged, the same qualifications, but different articles of the Criminal Code are used, according to which the charge is brought. All this can be done so that the accused ends up in a pre-trial detention center. If, on one charge, the court refuses to choose a measure of restraint in the form of detention, the prosecutor’s office tries to bring a new charge and again initiates the question of keeping in a pre-trial detention center. This can continue until the person is in custody.
In this context, attention should be paid to the practice of the ECtHR. For example, the case “Kharchenko v. Ukraine” (judgment of the European Court of Human Rights dated February 10, 2011, No. 40107/02, paragraph 79), the case “Labita v. Italy” (judgment of the European Court of Human Rights dated April 06, 2000, No. 26772/95, paragraph 153) indicate the following limitation when choosing an exceptional measure of restraint: prolongation of detention̆ can only be justified if there is a specific public interest which, despite the presumption of innocence, outweighs the principle of respect for individual liberty.