Armenia’s Defense Ministry has set up a new body tasked with combating and preventing corruption, human rights abuses and other crimes among Armenian military personnel.
In a statement released on Friday, the ministry said that the Center for Human Rights and Integrity will be headed by a lieutenant-colonel who will also have the status of a “senior assistant” to Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian.
It said the center will coordinate efforts to “protect human rights, strengthen integrity and develop anti-corruption policies in the area of defense.” That will be done in close collaboration with the Armenian civil society and international organizations, according to the statement.
Armenia is part of NATO’s Building Integrity (BI) program that seeks to help member and partner states lower corruption risks in their armed forces and increase their accountability to the public. The Defense Ministry in Yerevan completed a related “self-assessment questionnaire” and delivered it to the NATO headquarters in Brussels in April this year.
“The completion of the questionnaire is the first step in the implementation of the NATO BI Program for Armenia,” NATO said in a statement issued at the time. It said the U.S.-led alliance will help the South Caucasus state boost “integrity, transparency, accountability and good governance in its defense and security sector.”
The new Defense Ministry center will presumably deal with hazing and other chronic abuses resulting in non-combat deaths of Armenian soldiers. They have come under greater public scrutiny in Armenia in the past several years, forcing the military to toughen its crackdown on army crime.
The military says that the number of such fatalities has been steadily decreasing. Local human rights groups insist, however, that it is still not doing enough to tackle the problem.