The odyssey of former prisoners of war who were returned back to the army is finally over. Recently, they returned home from the Dilijan Rehabilitation Center on the orders of Defense Minister Arshak Karapetyan.
As we have already informed, the three soldiers captured during the 44-day war, who went through the horrors of war and then the horrors of the Azeri captivity, were returned to the army after a short rehabilitation treatment. They were extradited to the Republic of Armenia in December. There were 69 former prisoners returned to Armenia at that time. Almost all of them were declared unfit for military service by the Military Medical Commission, except only three former POWs who were declared fit for continuation of military service.
However, the boys had physical and psychological problems.
Two of them, S.M. and S.H., told To Forrights.am that they were unable to carry out the orders of the officers, had psychological problems, could not wear military uniforms, and often had an irresistible desire to escape from the place of service or go home.
S.M. also had mentioned that he had many health problems, which the commission ignored. “The shard of my leg prevents me from moving. Sometimes I have terrible pain. I have a left rib injury and an internal fracture, which also incapacitates me. My fracture was deep and I still have pain in that part almost every day.”
In response to Forrights.am’s inquiries, the Ministry of Defense officials had clarified that there is no law in Armenia prohibiting the service of former prisoners of war in the army.
Other media outlets, human rights activists, Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan, NA deputies also responded to our calls.
In particular, the first ombudsman of the Republic of Armenia, human rights activist, head of the “Against Legal Arbitrariness” NGO Larisa Alaverdyan, who has years of experience working with prisoners of war, in an interview with Forrights.am considered the further service of the former prisoners of war in the Armed Forces inadmissible. She said that one or two months of rehabilitation treatment were not enough to bring such people back to normal life, that the process takes years, and that the Ministry of Defense should immediately pass a law to release them from the army, “especially when many of them have been taken prisoners for special reasons, through the fault of the state: the territories were handed over with them in those territories.”
After harsh assessments by human rights activists, the former prisoners of war, who were continuing their service in various military units, were returned to the “Mountainous Armenia” sanatorium in Dilijan in May, where they were receiving rehabilitation treatment.
The General Department for Health and Social Assistance of Veterans of the Ministry of Defense explained to us: “Probably, they saw that the service was not going well, they moved them to Dilijan.” And the boys said that only their own walls could cure them, they complained that they were receiving non-psychological help in Dilijan sanatorium and were carrying out other treatments.
“This is another captivity,” S.H. told Forrights.am in June. He continued his military service in the Ararat military unit after his captivity, then moved to Dilijan after a public uproar. “I was persuaded to try to serve again. I went to the medical center of the military unit to get a headache medicine and learned that they were bringing me to Dilijan. I am constantly waiting. It looks like they have forgotten us, ignored us. They do not even explain why we are taken here. I do not know what will happen to me the next minute, I do not even have a military ID.”
After our articles, former prisoner of war S. H. was sent home to receive care at home, and S. M., through the mediation of the Human Rights and Morality Center of the Ministry of Defense, was provided with 500,000 drams for treatment, as a double medical examination confirmed that he had a shrapnel wound.
The issue of exemption of former prisoners of war was finally resolved when Arshak Karapetyan was appointed Minister of Defense.
“We were told we would be released soon about 20 days ago,” said S. M., a former prisoner of war, “we told our families and they were ready. All the same; when I went home, my mother was so happy. Recently we were just kept in Dilijan. We did nothing but waited to go home. Now I am thinking of finding a job.”
S. M. returned to Goris 10 days ago to visit his mother. As soon as he arrived, he received bad news that his friend’s remains had been recognized by genetic examination. “It was my sergeant from Jebrayil, Gevorg Gasparyan. The body was found 5 months ago, but it has been confirmed that it was him just now. I went to his funeral in Yerevan,” said the young man for whom it seems that war became his destiny.