The Human Rights and Ethics Center of the Ministry of Defense responded to our publication “The Command Staff of the Stepanakert Military Unit Forbade Contract Servicemen to Apply for Leave.”
In our publication, we referred to the demand of the soldiers serving in the NKR military units to provide holidays as defined by the law under the “I am” program. Armenian servicemen who served in Artsakh and then were transferred to the military units of Armenia after the war reported that they had been deprived of their right to leave. The same was confirmed by a group of soldiers from the Stepanakert military unit, who are serving in the Ministry of Defense within the framework of the “I am” program, have a contract with the Artsakh Defense Army, but were told that they will not go on vacation for 5 months.
According to the officials of the Ministry of Defense, the non-granting of leave to the servicemen of the “I am” program is conditioned by the pandemic situation.
Gevorg Martirosyan, the head of the Ministry of Defense’s Human Rights and Ethics Center, explains to Forrights.am: “There is an order from the Chief of General Staff that, due to the new coronavirus disease and in accordance with the current procedure of anti-pandemic sanitary-hygienic measures, the vacations of the servicemen serving in the military under the “I am” program are prohibited. Nevertheless, vacation pay is provided. Releases of conscripts and visits of parents are also prohibited, and leave is granted in accordance with the decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia of December 11, 2020. An exception is made only in the event of the death of a family member: in that case, a vacation is provided.”
To the question why the servicemen of the Stepanakert military unit are not left to go home, why they were told that they will not go on vacation for 5 months, the official answered: “The mentioned order applies to compulsory servicemen serving both in Artsakh and Armenia. We cannot say how long it will last. No dates are specified. “
According to Martirosyan, there are some servicemen within the “I am” program who have returned to Armenia due to the war and therefore have not kept the borders for a long time, which means that their obligations under the “I am” have been violated. “Their demand is not too legitimate, because they are not on duty in their combat position,” the official said.
But, in that case, if both the duties and the rights have been violated, why aren’t the “I am” servicemen allowed to go home? There is no answer to this question at the moment, but we were assured that the program is under review and will be clarified soon.
We have already reported that numerous cases of breaches of contracts have been registered under the “I am” program. In particular, a group of servicemen serving in the Krasni military unit, who have to be on duty for 21 days under the “I am” program and 7 days at home, are not able to get their regular leaves.