By Hrach Melkumian
A human rights activist who has consistently accused Armenian military prosecutors of covering up murders and other serious crimes in the armed forces claimed on Monday that the country’s main law-enforcement agency is likely to back most of his allegations soon.
Earlier this year, Ruben Martirosian, a leading soldiers’ rights campaigner, submitted 18 specific cases of the alleged cover-up to the office of Armenia’s prosecutor-general for examination. Martirosian told RFE/RL that prosecutors investigating the claims are close to confirming their veracity.
Armenia’s controversial chief military prosecutor, Gagik Jahangirian, has been frequently accused of failure to prosecute senior military officers guilty of serious human rights abuses. The accusations came to a head in July when the presidential commission on human rights called for criminal proceedings to be launched against Jahangirian for what it called widespread mistreatment of arrested servicemen in military police custody. Martirosian’s activities were instrumental in the commission’s unprecedented decision.
Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian ordered an inquiry into the allegations at the time. An ad hoc commission of seven prosecutors is still examining them.
“Instead of ensuring law and order in the army, the military prosecutor’s office is only contributing to illegalities,” Martirosian charged, branding Jahangirian a “criminal.” Martirosian, who held a senior post in the oversight department of the Armenian defense ministry from 1998-2000, claimed that the military prosecutors are unwilling to investigate instances of murder, hazing and bullying in the army because of kickbacks paid by the offenders.
According to official data, 64 Armenian servicemen died last year in non-combat incidents including accidents, disease and mistreatment by fellow soldiers. Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, on whose orders Martirosian was fired from the ministry last year, assured the public in January that the number of such incidents has dropped over the past several years.