An Armenian army soldier has been hospitalized after being allegedly beaten up by one of his commanders, who had already been charged with mistreating another conscript, it emerged on Wednesday.
The case is a further embarrassment for the Armenian military, which has come under public scrutiny in recent months over a series of non-combat deaths and other grave incidents within its ranks.
The soldier, Erik Grigorian, was taken to a military hospital in Yerevan late last week with a broken nose and other serious injuries. He refused to comment on their causes when approached by RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Wednesday.
According to Grigorian’s father Gagik, the 18-year-old conscript was beaten up by Lieutenant-Colonel Armen Bareghamian, the deputy commander of his army unit stationed near Yerevan. “He allegedly failed to report for duty in the morning and was beaten for that reason. In fact, he got smashed,” Grigorian told RFE/RL.
The father claimed that the beating took place in the presence of other servicemen and lasted for more than an hour. “Erik’s fellow soldiers say they were to scared too stop the beating,” he said.
The Armenian Defense Ministry’s Investigative Service said it launched on Monday a criminal investigation into the incident under articles of the Criminal Code dealing with abuse of power by military personnel. An official there said Bareghamian has not been formally charged yet and is continuing to perform his duties.
The official also revealed that the officer will soon go on trial on charges of beating up another soldier that carry between two and five years’ imprisonment. The incident occurred this summer, he said.
Speaking to RFE/RL, Defense Ministry spokesman Davit Karapetian said Bareghamian has not been sacked or suspended so far because of “the presumption of innocence.” He said the officer will be fired if convicted or even placed under pre-trial arrest.
The embarrassing case comes as the ministry and the army command are at pains to assure the public that they are doing their best to eradicate chronic hazing and other abuses. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian repeated these assurances on Tuesday at a meeting with relatives of two servicemen who were recently found dead in still unclear circumstances.
Two officers and nine soldiers are currently under arrest pending trial in connection with these deaths. Another officer was arrested last month following the emergence of an Internet video that showed him physically abusing two soldiers.
While acknowledging the existence of “shortcomings” within the armed forces, President Serzh Sarkisian condemned their “vilification” by media and opposition figures later in October.