Today, during the street disobedience actions of the opposition “Resistance” movement, an incident took place between the police and “Hayastan” faction MP Arthur Ghazinyan. According to the video, the police arrested one of the citizens for swearing, and Ghazinyan insists that the arrested citizen should be released․ The following conversation takes place between the MP and the police colonel․
Ghazinyan։ Do you arrest a person for swearing?
Police officer։ What?․․․ For swearing at us? Yes.
Ghazinyan։ Arrest? Really?
Police officer։ Yes, it is a grave insult.
Ghazinyan։ It is not true. You are lying. So far no one has been arrested for swearing, Mr. Papyan. A precedent is set during your time and during your administration.
Police officer։ We arrest because…
Ghazinyan։ Personal insult is not subject to arrest according to the Criminal Code.
Police officer։ We will not allow such hooliganism. Full stop.
The Fact Investigation Platform examined whether it is lawful to arrest a citizen for grave personal insult.
On July 30, 2021, the National Assembly made an amendment to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia, adding Article 137․1 to the Code, namely, “grave Insult“. According to this article, seriously insulting a person – cursing or insulting his dignity in any other extremely indecent way – is punishable by a fine of 100-500 times the minimum wage. An act committed regularly against the same person is punishable by a fine of 1000-3000 times the minimum wage, or imprisonment for a term of one to three months.
In this article, public activity is the behavior of a person related to journalistic, publicist activities, performance of official duties, public service or public office, public or political activities.
As this change has criminalized grave insult, it has become an act constituting a crime. The Law on Police stipulates that the Police shall prevent crimes and other offenses in accordance with the procedure and in the cases prescribed by law, to arrest persons who have committed crimes or other offenses, to reveal the causes of crimes and other offenses and the conditions conducive to them, take measures to eliminate them.
Therefore, the article of the Criminal Code on grave insult and the mentioned article of the Law on the Police make it lawful to arrest a swearing citizen.
As for Ghazinyan’s assertion that people were not arrested for swearing before, in fact, he is right. The law was amended on July 30, 2021, during the administration of the current government, and entered into force a month later.
Thus, Ghazinyan’s assertion during the dispute with the police officer that police officers have no right to arrest a person for personal insult is wrong. Moreover, in such cases the police officer is obliged to arrest the citizens who have seriously insulted someone.