Two cases of suicide in Armenian army in one week
In the last week, there have been two cases of suicide by Armenian conscripts.
Judging by the articles of the criminal cases that have been launched, it would seem that the young men were driven to suicide by their fellow servicemen and officers.
The public is alarmed, as there have been no such cases in the Armenian army lately.
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Tried to kill an officer, then committed suicide
The body of 19-year-old Volodya Galoyan, serving in Nagorno-Karabakh, was found 50 meters from an observation post. Investigators say the soldier first tried to shoot his commanding officer, but failed.
Immediately afterwards, Galoyan left the fighting position. A few hours later, his body was found with a gunshot wound in the jaw area, and his AK-47.
A criminal case was opened into “attempted homicide” and “causing to commit suicide.”
Galoyan’s commanding officer has been detained, as he is suspected of “beating a subordinate.”
Relatives reject suicide account
19-year-old Amik Vardanyan was the victim of the second incident.
Vardanyan, also a draftee, was found with a bullet wound through the forehead in a combat position. Under what circumstances the tragedy occurred has not yet been reported. However, a criminal case has already been initiated under the article “causing to commit suicide”.
Amik Vardanyan was the only child in the family. He was called up in January of this year. His relatives do not believe that he committed suicide, and declared he was physically prepared, balanced, could stand up for himself and would not take such a step. According to them, Amik recently came home on vacation, and did not speak of any disturbances in his army life.
Human rights advocates also have trouble believing that Vardanyan killed himself. For many years, human rights activist Zhanna Aleksanyan has been working to protect the rights of servicemen and says that the version of the investigation is full of holes:
“I do not understand how they determined within just two hours that it was suicide, moreover, as a result of a shot to the forehead. Although I am not surprised, after all, the Investigative Committee has even qualified a headshot from the back – at the top of the head – as suicide.”
Aleksanyan says that in such cases, the court generally takes the side of the prosecutor’s office:
“At best, charges are brought against several servicemen who are imprisoned for two to three years or are not imprisoned at all. Often they will not even be arrested. I will say that not a single officer, not a single commander of a unit has ever been convicted.”
On July 25, the Military Prosecutor’s Office of Armenia published official statistics, which indicate a decrease in the number of crimes in the Armed Forces.
According to official statistics, in the first half of 2019, 425 crimes were committed in the army – a 16.5 percent drop than in the same period of 2018.
It is worth nothing that crimes of a military nature also went down by 18.5 percent. According to the data provided by the military procurator, this year, five servicemen have been killed, two of them by shots from the Azerbaijani side.
Other expert opinions
The head of the Vanadzor office of the Helsinki Civil Assembly, Arthur Sakunts, commented to JAMnews on the data published by the Military Prosecutor’s Office.
Sakunts say that many cases of violence in the army are not recorded, as a result, they drop out of official statistics:
“We often do not find out about cases of harm to health as a result of non-statutory relations. It is more difficult to keep silent about deaths, but this can happen as well. But even official statistics indicate that there are fewer victims from the actions of the enemy. At the same time, the opposite trend is observed: the number of victims is growing in a largely peaceful environment.”
Sakunts says that the circumstances surrounding the death of the two soldiers will be discovered. However, the articles on which the criminal cases have been initiated nevertheless indicate that in the units where the deceased served, there is evidence of abusive and violent treatment of conscripts.
He also believes that the true culprits are often either not prosecuted at all, or receive a rather lenient punishment:
“Such cases suggest that there is still no systemic solution that could prevent such incidents. The servicemen are left alone with their problems. They have no means for self-defense. That is why such phenomena happen.”