conduct of the Police with regard to fining persons for not wearing a mask or
failure to wear it properly and their apprehension to Police departments become
concerning and, from a systemic point of view, result in incorrect
Evidentially, the aim of the requirement of wearing a mask as an individual
protective measure is the prevention of or the fight against the novel
coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The activities of any state authority or
official with legal functions in that regard should be directed toward this
The current police practice of apprehending a person for not wearing a mask or
for failure to wear it properly or, in other words, depriving a person of
liberty and of imposing an administrative fine, takes unacceptable forms.
The minimal rights for an apprehended person or a person deprived of liberty
are not ensured, the mandatory requirement for properly informing about reasons
for deprivation of liberty is violated, issues are recorded in the documents
with regard to apprehension, etc.
Cases of unlawful conduct of a police officer approached to a citizen,
uncertainties in communications with citizens, apprehensions in an unacceptable
manner, and cases of disproportional use of force are recorded.
all cases it is unacceptable when a police officer applies a legal pressure
against a citizen with a mask for not having an identification document. In
itself, not having an identification document cannot be an independent ground
for imposing liability or applying legal pressure.
This new practice formed since the declaration of the State of Emergency
further aggravates existing systemic issues within the system of apprehension.
of this, in turn, causes additional tension in the state along with the
difficulties that have arisen due to the coronavirus pandemic.
is evident that the administrative fine for not wearing a mask or failure to
wear it properly and depriving a person of liberty are acquiring a punitive
nature. It is unacceptable and is a dangerous approach from the point of view
of the human rights system. In fact, these activities should be aimed at
supporting the prevention of the new coronavirus pandemic, contributing to
ensuring the atmosphere of solidarity in the country: this is the guiding principle
that needs to be followed.
the other hand, it is obvious that police officers themselves have become the
"legal victims" of the existing uncertain regulations. The
legislation in this area never attained the required level of certainty and predictability
for both the citizen and the police officers. There should be detailed rules or
guidelines for police officers with regard to their work under the conditions
of the coronavirus pandemic.
Apprehension should in fact be a measure of last resort and should be used only
in exceptional cases when the police officer has exhausted all other legal
means available for him and when it is required in a particular situation. The
police officer should also take an individual approach in carrying out his
activities, given the peculiarities of a particular case.
Every police officer should clearly realize that apprehension is deprivation of
liberty, that they are representatives of the state obliged to guarantee the
rights of the person they approached or the person in respect of whom they
intend to apply legal pressure (to apprehend, to impose a fine, etc.). If
necessary, the police officer should provide the citizen with a mask rather
than considering apprehension as the main and even the primary alternative.
In each case, the police officer should explain to the citizen the essence of
the requirement for wearing a mask, the consequences of not wearing a mask or
wearing a mask improperly. The police officer should also have a proper
knowledge of the characteristics of the offense, for which he applies a legal
pressure. Police officers should undergo a training on minimum requirements, so
that they are able to explain to the citizen both the legal and health
consequences of not wearing a mask, and if necessary, provide the necessary
Finally, disciplinary proceedings initiated each time as a result of police
officers’ actions cannot yield real results without addressing the systemic
these conditions, the disciplinary proceedings simply acquire an episodic and
ineffective significance in terms of solving the issues recorded in concrete
cases and become illusory in terms of solving the systemic problems accumulated
over the years.
All these observations are based on the complaints addressed to the Human
Rights Defender, our visits to the Police Departments, as well as the results
of the observations. Within the proceedings initiated at the Human Rights
Defender Office for each case, concrete actions are undertaken aimed at
protecting the rights of citizens.
specifically underline that this statement does not relate to the issue of what
preventive value the mask has. This statement is also not intended to assess
the need for wearing a mask, including indoors or outdoors.
Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia