The Armenian government on Monday approved a bill envisaging a stricter punishment for those who drive soldiers to commit suicide.
A relevant amendment to the country’s penal code has been authored by opposition lawmaker Naira Zohrabian, who chairs the parliament’s human rights committee.
Currently, Armenia’s Criminal Code refers to driving others to commit suicide in general, making it a crime punishable with a prison sentence of between three to five years.
The proposed amendment is aimed at separating this type of crime when the matter concerns soldiers, making its punishment stricter – between six and nine years in prison if it is committed through negligence.
In approving the amendment, the government suggested including a clause that will stipulate up to 10 years in prison for those who commit this crime through negligence during wartime and up to 14 years in prison for “indirectly intentional” action.
Prosperous Armenia Party member Zohrabian believes the measure will reduce the number of suicides in the army. She refers to an unfortunate statistics that says more soldiers in the Armenian army commit suicide or die otherwise, including because of hazing, than get killed in action.
“This is an alarming pattern,” said Zohrabian, adding that about a dozen suicides are registered in the ranks every year.
Referring to suicides committed in the armed forces, Armenia’s Deputy Defense Minister Gabriel Balayan said that they draw corresponding conclusions and officials found responsible for such incidents receive their punishment.
“In any case, it is impossible to avoid such incidents in the army altogether. Unfortunately, it is not possible to fully ensure that it doesn’t happen among men who are on combat duty with arms. But there is a lot to be done to exclude all this,” he said.