Jurisdiction Matters: Questions asked over status of Russian soldier held over Gyumri family massacre

Jurisdiction Matters: Questions asked over status of Russian soldier held over Gyumri family massacre

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Lawyer Norayr Norikyan

The current legal status of a Russian serviceman, who is suspected of murdering an Armenian family in Gyumri, is a violation of both the Constitution of Armenia and the Constitution of Russia, a lawyer in Yerevan insisted today.

Valeri Permyakov, an 18-year-old native of the Russian city of Chita, yesterday confessed to slaughtering six members of the Avetisyan family in a Monday rampage the reasons of which still remain unclear.

Before that the conscript who served at Russia’s 102nd military base was detained by Russian border guards near the border with Turkey. He is now held in custody at the base.

According to lawyer Norayr Norikyan, from the legal point of view the criminal investigation should be carried out by Armenian authorities and the suspect should stand trial by Armenian laws.

“The decision has been made outside Armenia and further investigation of the case will be carried out not by the authorities of Armenia. Unfortunately, our state is unable to bypass this decision, which means that Article 1 of Armenia’s Constitution that defines the country’s sovereignty is imperiled,” Norikyan argued during a press conference on Wednesday.

Commenting on the reactions of Armenia’s officials, the lawyer noted some contradictions with what the Russian side states. For example, chief of Armenia’s Armed Forces General Staff Yuri Khachaturov has stated that the suspect will stand trial in Armenia.

Some media reports on Tuesday presented extractions from Permyakov’s preliminary testimony. In particular, the suspected murderer said he went to the house of the Avetisyans in order to ask for water. It remains unclear, however, how that could lead to such a violent outcome and result in the murder of six people, including one child, and wounding of a six-month-old baby.

Many, including Norikyan, challenge the version that Permyakov gunned down the whole family as he was afraid that they would report his crime (being absent without leave from the base), especially that some reports say that all dead were found in their beds.

Referring to the agreement signed by Armenia and Russia in 1995-97, under which the Russian military base was deployed in the country, the Armenian lawyer said that violations of the Constitution take place.

“Under Article 4 of the Agreement the crimes committed by persons involved in the Russian military base in the territory of Armenia are subject to investigation by competent authorities of Armenia in a manner prescribed by the legislation,” he said.

The Armenian Prosecutor-General’s Office, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that the issue of the Russian serviceman’s handover to Armenian law-enforcement bodies was not even considered.

“Valeri Permyakov, who is suspected of committing the murders, is a citizen of the Russian Federation and is under the control of the law-enforcement bodies of the Russian Federation, which is the same as being within the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation. Hence, the issue of Permyakov’s handover to Armenian law-enforcement bodies is not considered taking into account point 1 of article 61 of the Russian Constitution, under which a citizen of the Russian Federation cannot be handed over to another state,” it said.