HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION IN THE ARMED FORCES: REGRESS OR PROGRESS?
26.01.2018
12:00
On January 28 Armenia celebrates its Army Day. A few days before, on January 26, the Media Center hosted a discussion on protection of the rights of military servicemen and cases of violations in 2017; speakers Mr. Artur Sakunts, human rights activist and Chairman of HCA Vanadzor, and Ms Zhanna Alexanyan, human rights activist and Chairperson of Journalists for Human Rights NGO, shared their views on current issues.

According to the speakers, the state of human rights protection in the Armenian army is steadily poor and this situation is accompanied by false patriotism propaganda in Armenia.

With reference to the number of death cases among the soldiers in 2017, Mr. Artur Sakunts highlighted the need for effective investigation into such cases by the Armed Forces.

"The inevitability of punishment or responsibility for violations is a guarantee that such acts are never repeated again," he said adding that according to preliminary data, the number of death cases makes 62, of which about 45-50% occurred due to ceasefire violations and the others occurred in peacetime (internal statutory relations, murders, suicides, car accidents).

Ms Zhanna Alexanyan agreed to the above opinion and highlighted revelation of impunity issues in the army. As an example she recalled Ernest Hovhannisyan’s case who had thrown himself out of the window after 8 days of service. While the pro-government press outlets kept writing that the young man did not wish to serve in the army, his parents insist that he was very pleased to join the army and was in a very good state before the incident.

"I have never seen any inclination on the part of the Ministry of Defense to detect these cases. They gave false information to the newspapers and preserved the atmosphere of impunity within the army which is its biggest problem," she said and gave another example when a contract serviceman faced humiliation and violence as he was trying to leave his job due to serious problems.

Mr. Artur Sakunts added that such cases were mostly left in silence.

"Since Vigen Sargsyan assumed the office of the Defense Minister, he has never uttered a single word on the situation in the army. While data on the death cases, suicides and murders are published, he has not uttered a single word so far on any actions taken by the high officers in the army to prevent this and change the situation. Therefore, such issues must be voiced to get a legal solution."

He also expressed his concerns over medical examination during the call-up and the quality of the technical appliances of medical service most strikingly expressed during the April war in 2016 by revealing a complex web of problems.

"In several death cases, wounded soldiers were taken to hospital from the site of the hostilities and died because of malfunction of the medical care vehicles," the human rights activist said.

In her turn, Ms Zhanna Alexanyan believes that false patriotic propaganda is spread in Armenia.

"Their perception of patriotism is quite different. For them, the most important thing is to wear uniforms and visit the military positions. The most important thing is to declare that they are with the soldier, but we can see lots of soldiers who are ignored."

In his speech, Mr. Artur Sakunts urges that instead of sending uniforms, hygienic supplies and other items to their children, the parents of soldiers demand that the Ministry of Defense provides all those items which is indeed their duty.

Mr. Derenik Malkhasyan, Editor/Coordinator at the Media Center Project

To contact the author, feel free to write to the e-mail below: derenikmalkhasian@gmail.com

 

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