The Defense Ministry looks at the army with closed eyes: Facts of sexual violence are ignored

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The Press Secretary of the Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan does not believe that there are cases of sexual violence against the servicemen in the Armenian army.

Answering questions of www.aravot.am on April 22, he made the following statement: “In our Armed Forces, I do not remember a case when not an officer, but a soldier raped a soldier and continued living: do you know what the fellow servicemen would do with him? …And, not just in the army, I have not heard such a thing in civil life either.”

This was the Defense Ministry spokesman’s respond to the Forrights.am website’s publications about violent acts of sexual nature and beating and assault of a soldier in Martakert N military unit in January 2018. The officer, who, according to the soldier, has committed the acts of violence, assures that it was slander, and the soldier was charged for false denunciations (Cr. Article 333 of the day). The lawyer of the Journalists for Human Rights organization, Hayarpi Sargsyan, defends his interests.

It was the solder’s mother who first revealed the incident. She tells that her son called once and asked for help, but did not tell what had happened. Then, after much insistence, he told his mother how the officer beat him cruelly for three days, wrapped him in a blanket and beat, and, afterwards, raped him. The mother alerted the military unit command staff as well as Forrights.am, which regularly covered the further developments.

But the Defense Ministry spokesman does not believe her. Artsrun Hovhannisyan insists: “I believe the low enforcement bodies, not the soldiers or their parents.”

Since the spokesman officially represents the minister’s position, we can say with confidence that Defense Minister David Tonoyan does not believe the soldiers of the Armenian army and their parents.

“How do you evaluate the skepticism of the spokesman, the fact that he does not believe the soldiers but believes the military prosecutor’s office?”, we asked Ms. Zhanna Alexanyan, the President of the Journalists For Human Rights NGO.

“The statements of the Defense Ministry spokesperson are non-professional and evasive, trying to create the impression in the society, in a rather vulgar manner, alleging that we discredit the army. Believing or not believing of the spokesman is not a legal category. For more than a year we have been dealing with the case of this young man, we have appealed to various departments to ensure the boy’s physical existence and security. We are thankful to the General Prosecutor’s Office for solving some of the problems, but we have not received a response from the Defense Ministry. This speaks of the indifference of the Defense Ministry to the soldier’s life and health. We cannot ignore the soldier in psychological and physical hardship and his parent,” said the human rights defender.

The reason for the skepticism of the Minister and his spokesman is that they have not seen the forensic-medical examination that proves the fact of sexual abuse. “I have not seen the results of a forensic expert examination, they have not presented these results, they are lying, where is that examination, and why does not they show us that such an expertise exists?”, says the spokesman.

Three conclusions of the forensic expertise prove that the young man had been subjected to sexual violence against his will, and that it happened when he was in the military unit. The court sessions of the criminal case are closed, and soldier’s lawyer Hayarpi Sargsyan cannot disclose these conclusions to dispel the skepticism of the Defense Minister and his spokesman. However, they are available from the body conducting the proceedings.

“If they are really interested, they can ask directly to the body conducting the proceedings to provide the results of forensic examinations. The same fate is waiting the other servicemen because the reason for abuses and impunity in our army is exactly that kind of behavior of the Ministry of Defense and the indifference of the society and government,” writes the lawyer on her Facebook page.

To inform the speaker, we consider our duty to refer to another expert conclusion that has been made … on the murder case of Narek Adibekyan. Adibekyan was killed on December 11, 2017. The main witness of the murder, K. Kh., whose testimony is the base of the accusation, was sexually assaulted, insulted by Adibekyan, and, eventually, did not endure the humiliation, killed him in an afflicted state of mind.

Adibekyan’s relatives do not accept this hypothesis. There are many facts that prove that the version is invented, but the fact that K. has been subjected to sexual violence is undeniable. According to the forensic medical report, there were traces of burns on his palms, injuries were found on the lips, cheeks, buttocks, nose, testicles, colon hemorrhage, cracks in the rectum, rupture and deformations of the rectum veins, traces of penetration of blunt subjects.

However, there is no evidence that these traces were left by Narek Adibekyan and not by officers of the military unit. Moreover, from the forensic conclusion it follows that sexual activities with K. Kh. occurred in the military unit and not on military duty, as the investigators report.

Artsrun Hovhannisyan insists that, at least during the last seven years, he has not been informed of any case which would prove that a soldier of the Armenian army has been subjected to sexual violence. This conviction of the speaker proves that the Ministry of Defense did not undertake any study on the crimes committed in peaceful conditions in the army, and, therefore– on the moral and psychological atmosphere in the army, and did not learn lessons. There is no guarantee that the dreadful crimes will not continue.

Syuzan Simonyan

ԹՈՂՆԵԼ ՊԱՏԱՍԽԱՆ

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