Armenia’s human rights Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian released on Wednesday a special report aimed at exposing the problems that exist in the army and often lead to human rights violations.
Answering an RFE/RL question regarding the degree to which the rights of soldiers and servicemen in the Armenian military are protected, Harutiunian said: “A serviceman in the army is unprotected to the extent that we would like him to feel protected. That is why we have prepared this ad hoc report and decided not to wait to incorporate this information in the annual report. If it is an ad hoc report, it already shows that the matter is urgent enough and one has to respond to this very quickly.”
The human rights defender will soon submit the report to both the Minister of Defense and the country’s Government.
The report draws particular attention to the conduct of officers and commanders and the issue of their responsibility.
“In a number of cases a commander behaves in a way that promotes the turning of a disciplinary action into real suffering for the serviceman,” the report says.
In one of the military units, for example, a soldier was punished and locked in a cell despite the circumstance that he had been only recently discharged from hospital where he had been treated for pneumonia.
A total of 171 cases of beatings and hazing were reported during the period of nine months of 2008, of which 38 concerned officers beating conscripts. And 97 cases concerned soldiers beating fellow army conscripts. In five reported cases soldiers beat officers or warrant officers.
“A commander must indeed bear personal responsibility for issues connected with the personnel,” said Harutiunian. “Many discipline-related matters here have a punitive meaning, and that is right for those cases. But provisions of the guarantees of the European Convention on Human Rights should apply to them as well.”