Gegham Harutiunian, an advisor to Armenia’s defense minister, has ascribed the latest high-profile revelations in the ranks to the policy of allowing “greater publicity” being pursued by the country’s military authorities.
Harutiunian, who also heads the Defense Ministry-affiliated public council dealing with human rights violations and abuse in the armed forces, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday that raising trust in relations with society has been a major direction of the ongoing reform in the military.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry’s investigative service announced the second arrest, within a little more than a week, of a senior army officer suspected of extorting money from his inferiors at a military unit stationed in the central Armenian province of Ararat.
Harutiunian said the ongoing investigation would reveal the scope of the crime and that investigators were determined to identify and bring to justice anyone related to the criminal activities.
At the same time, the advisor to the defense minister stressed that cases like this latest one rather happen “at the level of individuals”, while “an overwhelming majority of officers in our army condemn these phenomena and will never permit themselves to do such a thing.”
“Today it seems unimaginable that a case involving someone abusing his position and acting against his subordinate would remain undisclosed and the culprit would go unpunished,” Harutiunian said. “We see that this policy is being clearly pursued.”
Independent analysts tend to view the recent rise in reported crime in the military as a reflection of the greater extent of transparency afforded by the traditionally closed institution and its head Seyran Ohanian, in particular.
Ohanian, who played a major role in the 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh and subsequently commanded the Karabakh army, took the office of Armenia’s defense minister in 2008.
He has been under a barrage of criticism from human rights groups and the opposition after a string of non-combat deaths and cases of abuse rocked the Armenian army in recent months.
Ministry officials and some observers, however, maintain that the revealed cases do not speak for a dramatic worsening of the situation in the ranks, but rather reflect a better crime reporting.
Harutiunian, too, says that the Ministry’s activities have become more transparent in this sense and that a more trusted army-society relationship is “a major direction of the ongoing reform in the armed forces.”
“The defense minister has a clear position on this – to ensure a greater publicity and achieve a more trusted relationship with society. This is a principle-based policy that has been adopted by the defense minister,” he said. “You can see that in the past two or three months it has proved quite hard to remain committed to this policy, but still this policy is continuing, and I believe there will be no deviation from it.”