“The cases labeled as suicides in the army are always dubious. Months ago, Nikol Pashinyan mentioned that he was very interested in the army, but I notice now that, at the moment, the rights of the soldiers serving in the army are not priority for the government. I am very surprised that the army is not in the spotlight of the authorities,” human rights activist Zhanna Alexanyan told in the summoned press conference.

Since January up to today, 35 cases of deaths of soldiers have been registered in the RA Armed Forces and NKR Defense Army. Their relatives have many unanswered questions, to which neither the Defense Ministry nor the Investigative Service provide exhaustive answers. Two of the most recognizable deaths were identified as murders, and 9 were labeled as suicides. Human rights activist noted that the incidents labeled as suicides are always suspicious.

“Working for nearly 20 years in the field of human rights, I have not yet encountered any single incident when a suicide case was initiated and then, in the course of the investigation, was changed to a murder case. Let’s just admit that, in normal conditions, no serviceman commits suicide. Let Defense Minister David Tonoyan go and check what’s going on in military units, or open an research center to understand why the servicemen commit suicide,” human rights defender Alexanyan stated.

Journalists for Human Rights NGO lawyer Hayarpi Sargsyan also stressed that the arguments on suicide cases are illogical. According to her, in many cases the preliminary investigative body insists on its version and does not try to present any facts.

“New findings emerge during the study of many facts. Some investigative actions are taking place negligently. We have an example, when the items found at the scene of crime were sent to an expert, but the description of the packages did not match their contents. Let us also note another fact: the weapons, with which allegedly the “suicides” were committed, most of the cases are devoid of any fingerprints. As if it turns out that after his death, the man gets up and cleans the weapon and dies again,” the lawyer said.

Parents and relatives of the killed servicemen were also present at the press conference. During the whole press conference, they could not restrain their emotions and regularly interrupted the speakers.

Armen Beglaryan, the uncle of Gevorg Haroyan, who committed suicide in Martuni 2 military unit in Artsakh on October 1, does not believe his nephew’s suicide. During the press conference, he announced that Gevorg was a boy full of life, not a downhearted type, so the whole command of the military unit and the defense ministries of Artsakh and Armenia are responsible for his murder.

“Do we send our children to a Fascist army, who takes them and just turns them into meat? There are so many such cases that we do not want to send our children to the army. Pashinyan should understand that if our children do not go to the border, neither Yerevan nor Karabakh will survive. They have to pay primary attention to our children so that they do not return from the army broken, killed or beaten,” Beglaryan stated indignantly.

The father of the serviceman Aghasi Mkrtchyan, who died on September 26, Derenik Mkrtchyan agreed with Armen Beglaryan. He was convinced that his son was murdered. Derenik Mkrtchyan was very agitated and could only say a few words. He announced that his son was humiliated and degraded in the army by setting up a “telephone burial” in his position.

“They have rattled him in front of everyone with organizing such a burial. After that, my son was in depression. After weeks, I learn that Aghasi is no more,” Mkrtchyan said in his speech and, unable to conceal his anxiety, left the press conference room.

Colonel Alexander Avetisyan, the head of the Human Rights and Good-Conduct Center of the Armenian Ministry of Defense, commented on a number of such complaints that the Ministry of Defense does not have the right to intervene in any investigative action and cannot give any commentaries:

“For the semi-annual period, the Defense Ministry’s Hotline has received over 16,000 calls, which are related to different issues. We study and monitor and decide on which tasks in which military units are priorities. In other issues the Ministry of Defense has nothing to do. We do not deal with death cases, it is not in our function,” said Avetisyan.

At the end of the press conference the relatives of killed soldiers suggested that parents of servicemen be allowed to visit regularly the military units where their sons serve. Alexander Avetisyan promised to organize a meeting and discuss all similar suggestions.

Roza Vardanyan

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