The corporal Hovhannes Melkonyan was killed in the Vardenis military unit on June 22. A black “cabin”, four walls, sloping roof — the only house the corporal has ever known, consists of a narrow, tiny room. Even the toilets of the contemporary buildings are bigger than his “house”. Melkonyan, a soldier of 15 years, has raised three children, lived and dreamed to eventually return home.

“He was an utterly tormented boy”

Leyla, the corporal’s wife who is ill, continues to stay in the black cabin. Landowners from neighboring villages come, pick her up and take to their fields where she works on their lands for 2,000 AMD a day [about $4].

As Leyla’s mother tells us, “he was an utterly tormented boy.” His parents were killed in the 1988 earthquake when he was just 12 years old. Other family members died too. During his 15 years of service in the army, the only award he ever received was a congratulation on the occasion of the anniversary of the detachment. He was so unfortunate that his murderer, deputy commander, captain Sargis Karapetyan, was not even arrested, tells the mother-in-law.

“He grabbed the chef’s gun and fired”

Captain Sargis Karapetyan`s brother brought him to the cabin. The captain kneeled in front of the family of the soldier he killed. “He had been drunk, they have taken his gun, but he has grabbed the chef’s gun and fired. He told me, ‘Ma’am, when I saw your son-in-law falling, I completely lost myself.’ He has been detained for three days, after which he admitted his guilt and was released. His uncle works in a military commissariat, has good connections, so he was released. They imprison a chicken thief but let go the murderer,” tells us Roza Sedrakyan.

Leyla, the wife, tells us a slightly different story: “The shooter has betted that he would shoot with one arm, in the middle of shooting his arm weakened and the bullet hit Hovhannes.” She does not believe the official version of his husband’s death. The investigator told her that 12 people were interrogated and each of them has told a different story,” says Leyla.

The investigator of the fifth garrison investigation department A. Khachatryan refused to provide us with any information. “I am not obliged to say anything to you at the preliminary investigation stage,” he said. We have been able to find out some official details on this procedure. The captain opened fire from a gun. On the occasion of his mother’s birthday, he has received 3 liters of vodka. He drank in the military unit and started shooting in the air.

“The same thing happened again at about 21:00. After that, at about 22:50, the captain, again, being drunk, took the gun attached to corporal H. Darbinyan, who was on combat duty, and, loading it next to the kitchen, started shooting resulting fatal injuries that killed a contracted soldier, ordinary Hovhannes Melkonyan who was in a few meters distance from the captain,” passed on the Investigative Committee.

The captain had a habit of firing in the air. According to the case materials, he did the same thing several days before the death of the corporal, on June 15, in a combat position. Currently, he continues his service.

The murderer is being accused of wasting military property

It seemed that the deputy commander would have been charged with at least causing death by negligence. Instead, he was charged with much milder articles of the Criminal Code– for wasting military property, which is punished by keeping the person in the disciplinary battalion from one to three years, or with imprisonment from one to five years, and for violation of rules on handling weapons, ammunition and materials that caused death by negligence, which is punished by imprisonment for four to eight years. Another article of the RA CC, Breach of combat duty or service rules causing grave consequences, was added recently.

We asked the speaker of the Defense Ministry if he considers it fair that the drunken commander continues his military service after opening fire on soldiers, he replied: “If the murder was not intentional, the officers are never being detained.” Actually, nothing has been changed in our army after the revolution.

The family learned about death of the corporal from the press. The military commissariat failed to call the family and express condolences. The lump-sum state insurance to the family—the 910,000 AMD [about $1,900], the funeral cost—700,000 AMD [$1,450] were not given to the wife of the deceased. The military commissariat explained that the deceased corporal has not recognized his paternity. “They told me that our marriage has not been registered. We have lived together 23-24 years, we legally have been spouses, three of our neighbors have testified. We have three children. Now we are waiting for paperwork to end, Lalayan from the military commissariat told us that, when the papers are completed, we will receive the sums,” says Leyla.

In assistance, the village administration has allocated 50,000 AMD [$100]. On the day of the funeral of the corporal, the latter’s body was taken from his mother-in-law’s house. “How could we put him in the tiny cabin? We could not put the body even outdoors since it was too sunny and hot,” tells the wife.

Syuzan Simonyan

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