Two more officers were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the latest non-combat death in the Armenian army that sparked a renewed outcry against chronic abuse of military personnel.
In a short statement, the Armenian Defense Ministry said the officers are suspected of complicity in the violent death of Aghasi Abrahamian, an 18-year-old conscript.
Abrahamian, who served in an army unit near Nagorno-Karabakh, died shortly after being hospitalized with serious injuries late last month. The soldier was reportedly unconscious when he was brought to a Karabakh military hospital.
Military investigators arrested one of the unit’s officers and a soldier last week. They charged the soldier with hazing Abrahamian and brought a case against the officer under a Criminal Code article relating to abuse of power and “inactivity.”
The Defense Ministry statement said that the two other arrested officers risk being prosecuted under the latter clause. None of the four suspects has been named yet.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian last week pledged to have the case fully solved amid renewed allegations that the military is not making good on its pledges to root out hazing and other army crimes.
About 100 people, among them parents of dead servicemen, picketed the main government building in Yerevan last Thursday to demand urgent action against continuing non-combat deaths. They accused military prosecutors of continuing to cover up many such cases.
Several Armenian human rights activists dealing with army crime echoed those accusations at a joint news conference on Tuesday. They demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian personally act to address these concerns.
“What is happening in the armed forces is a blatant violation of human rights. We believe that the Defense Ministry does not control the situation,” charged Artur Sakunts of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, a human rights group based in the northern Armenian city of Vanadzor.
The campaigners complained that the military authorities remain reluctant to release credible official data on army deaths. According to their estimates, 228 Armenian soldiers and officers have died since the beginning of 2007 and only 32 of them were killed by Azerbaijani troops.
“A comparative analysis of fatal incidents shows that it is far more dangerous to serve in the conditions of peace than to be on frontline positions,” said Sakunts.
Ohanian has repeatedly pledged to toughen the crackdown on army crime. Dozens of military personnel have been arrested, fired or demoted over the past year.