The Media center held a discussion on the availability of medical services for soldiers injured in the Armed Forces. The speakers include: Artsrun Hovhannisyan, press secretary of Ministry of Defense; Armine Sadikyan, Coordinator of HCA-Vanadzor Peace-Building Department; and Artashes Sergoyan, Project Coordinator at Secured Soldiers for Safe Armenia, Peace Dialogue, NGO.
The Ministry of Defense, Artsrun Hovhannisyan noted, provides all funds to those soldiers who received serious injuries and need treatment in Armenia. “The legislation does not specify any regulation for the Defense Ministry to carry out a soldier’s medical treatment outside Armenia. Besides, the treatment in foreign clinics is too expensive for the Ministry to fund because annually dozens of soldiers are injured and their treatment is provided in Armenia, sometimes a long-term treatment.”
Gevorg Yeghiazaryan, 23, a young Armenian conscript, was wounded severely at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border four years ago and could not move at all. He had a treatment in Israel with the support of the Ministry of Defense of Armenia and can now move in a wheelchair. However, the treatment was interrupted due to the lack of money, and his state is getting worse. He has to take painkillers all the time. The Ministry of Defense has said it does not have enough funds for the further treatment of the young man. The treatment costs USD 56,000.
Armine Sadikyan said Gevorg’s story is only one of many stories.
“To simply state that we do not have money, and the treatment is expensive, does not shovel off the obligations the Ministry has before soldiers, because parents say “we have sent a healthy child to the Army, so treat him.” Besides, the Ministry is supposed to come up with proposals to introduce amendments in the legislation. On the other hand, the Ministry should do at least the initial planning for soldiers’ treatment abroad,” Sadikyan said.
The speaker spoke on the 41 applications to their office during 2011-14. The applicants needed medical treatment in foreign hospitals. “Another concern is the medical examination before drafting in the Army. In 2013 9 soldiers have applied to us. They do not agree with the conclusions of the Central Medical Committee and, following our involvement in the case, four of them were exempted from military service.”
According to the Peace Dialogue NGO, the Central Medical Committee received 1254 complaints 102 out of which had the initial decision changed. “Actually, initial decisions are not complete. In 2014, as the Human Rights Defender’s report states, 67 soldiers have been exempted. In 2013 we have had 728 motions filed while in 2011 500 soldiers were exempted. Thus, it is evidence of the state’s approach to soldiers with health problems,” Artashes Sergoyan said.
Hovhannisyan disagreed with the statistics the NGO representatives outlined and emphasized the fact that the number of injured soldiers is increasing because of the escalation along the border.
“Over 99 percent of casualties are directly caused by the enemy and war. We do not have casualties of peace time, and if you need specific categories, you can use terms as injured by an opponent’s fire or non-opponent’s fire. The Ministry never dashes its obligations away,” Hovhannisyan said.
Sadikyan argued noting injuries cannot be all justified by ceasefire violations since only 25 percent of casualties, according to the HCA Vanadzor, were caused by ceasefire violations.
“As for the rest, the cases were all caused by internal violations or violations of combat rules, or health problems. Following the escalation along the border in mid 2014, the number of cases amounted to 50,” Sadikyan said.
The civil society representatives proposed “carrying out medical examination before demobilization to find out the dynamics.” Hovhannisyan welcomed “such constructive proposals” since the Ministry is always open to discussions.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator
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