“Exactly ten years ago, we were struck by a tragedy that was multiplied by injustice… In our struggle for justice, we continued to collide with walls… And justice has not been done yet,” Tsovinar Nazaryan posted on her Facebook page on July 27, the 10th anniversary of her brother Artak Nazaryan’s death.
Ten years after the murder of the 30-year-old contract soldier, Lieutenant Artak Nazaryan, the family still demands restoration of justice.
Artak Nazaryan was killed in the Mehrabner military unit after being subjected to inhuman torture (the official version is suicide). He was a contract soldier with the rank of lieutenant. He had served his compulsory military term at the Armenian Embassy in Iran. Artak was an Iranist by profession.
The family and the lawyers in this case have been announcing for years that both the preliminary investigation and the trial have been marred by numerous violations, and their claims that it was a murder in the army have been ignored.
Artak Nazaryan’s sister, Tsovinar Nazaryan, the legal successor of the victim, in an interview with Forrights told with regret that the falsifications and crimes committed by the relevant bodies did not find a worthy response either in the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal or the Court of Cassation.
“Our suspicions were substantiated that the place and time of my brother’s death were falsified, which was facilitated by the involuntary confessions of the witnesses. 7-8 state bodies resorted to falsification in order to hide just one key witness from the court for about eight months, until we received an answer to our inquiry from NSS border service that the person had never left Armenia.
Many witnesses in the courtroom refused to repeat their pre-trial testimonies; there was evidence of threats, unlawful imprisonment and torture, but they were ignored,” Tsovinar presents details from the case and adds: “The court kept rejecting all our motions that could refute the suicide hypothesis.”
According to the aggrieved party, they managed to reveal the falsification, but not the truth, while the persons with state authority spared no effort and energy to cover up the revelations and, in general, Artak’s case.
“The revolution bypassed the rights of servicemen and the judicial system”
After consuming the domestic courts for three years, in 2012 and then in 2014, the aggrieved party applied to the European Court of Human Rights. The first complaint was about rejection of access to almost all the materials of the preliminary investigation.
“All the evidence that were important for us was not provided,” said Mushegh Shushanyan, the representative of the victim’s legal successor, adding that the denials were appealed in all courts, then the case was challenged in the Constitutional Court, after which the appeal was sent to the European Court.
“We did not accept the version of suicide from the beginning, we insisted that Artak Nazaryan was killed. “We urged them to examine these and other hypotheses during the preliminary investigation, but to no avail. In fact, no comprehensive examination of other hypotheses took place,” says lawyer Shushanyan.
The second complaint was sent to the ECHR alleging a violation of Article 2 of the Convention. The aggrieved party alleges that Artak Nazaryan’s right to life has been violated in a territory of exclusive control of the state, the military unit; the state has a duty to protect the life of a person, which it has not done. In addition, it did not conduct an effective investigation to identify and prosecute all those guilty.
The victim’s sister is sure that the European Court will recognize the violations of both her brother’s right to life and, as the victims’ legal successors, their rights, which can be considered an organized state crime:
“Our expectation is that one by one these crimes will be assessed, their perpetrators will be investigated and punished, a new investigation will be launched in my brother’s case, and the reality will be revealed. Currently, I see tendencies to cover up the cases of other servicemen who suffered the fate of my brother, which is unfortunate to be recorded in post-revolutionary Armenia, as if the revolution bypassed the rights of servicemen and the judicial system,” said Tsovinar Nazaryan.
“We hope the state will have the will to erase this shameful stigma from its forehead with dignity”
Tsovinar has great expectations from the authorities of post-revolutionary Armenia. She hopes that the new leadership will have the courage to face reality, to radically change the judicial system and to introduce mechanisms of protection of the rights of servicemen:
“In my brother’s specific case, we expect the state to have the will to erase that shameful stigma from its forehead with dignity, launching a new, impartial investigation, revealing the truth, as well as investigating the crimes of state officials related to the case and giving them a legal assessment.”
Artak Nazaryan’s five servicemen were charged in the criminal case: his battalion’s deputy commander Captain Hakob Manukyan, senior of the “Luys” base lieutenant Vahagn Hayrapetyan, three privates of Nazaryan’s platoon Mkhitar Mkhitaryan, Adibek Hovhannisyan and Harutik Kirakosyan.
The court of general jurisdiction of Tavush region sentenced them to 10, 4, 4, 4, և 2 years of imprisonment, respectively, applying a probation period to Kirakosyan.
“After Artak Nazaryan’s death, Tsovinar and I visited the village of Artsvaberd in the Tavush region, where he lived during his military service. As we were returning, a woman from the village remembered Artak. She said that every morning she used to see him sitting in the car leading to the positions, and that he changed his shoes before getting into the car, and wore polished military boots. This is how Artak felt about the military and the army, but he was killed,” said Zhanna Aleksanyan, a human rights activist and the head of the Journalists for Human Rights NGO, adding that deaths in the army during peaceful conditions continue to happen, often qualifying as suicides, and the investigation hides them, as in the case of Artak Nazaryan.