“This year we have more than 60 deaths in the army in peaceful conditions, and this is an abnormal tendency. Last year there were 100 deaths, 18 of which were suicides. “We did not have such a number even in the past, only after the war of the 90s,” said human rights activist Zhanna Aleksanyan, President of the Journalists for Human Rights NGO, during a press conference today.
Speaking about the non-statutory relations in the army, the human rights activist mentioned that the army needs systemic change, but there are no tendencies, we do not see any steps in tht direction. “They changed the food and thought they had done a great job. But those people need to survive, don’t they, in order to be able to enjoy food? These authorities do not care about soldiers at all, there is no sense of responsibility.”
According to the human rights activist, for 4 years, the authorities have have come and keep talking about reforms in all spheres, but in the army, there was no inclination for reform. The army remains the same as it was in the past, not counting after the war situation, when the conditions worsened.
As an example, Zhanna Aleksanyan presented the case of the death of a contract soldier from Chambarak, who was tortured and killed with three shots in his abdomen. According to her, this case was first described as a violation of the rules of handling weapons, then they changed it to suicide.
“Has the Prime Minister spoken about these cases during these 4 years? What are they doing to change this situation? I say this because, standing in the National Assembly, he was giving instructions against the POWs that they should be tried, and he was consistent in this instruction. Let him stop and talk about these cases at least once.
Now one of the most favorite people of the Prime Minister, Suren Papikyan, has been appointed [as the Minister of Defense]. There have been 4 deaths of soldiers since he took the office [during one and a hald months]. What did Suren Papikyan do since then? No speech, no conversation, no consultation, nothing happened. In other words, the soldiers must die, and it is normal? “The Minister of Defense has a duty to explain to those families, to the public, what did he do when 4 soldiers were killed,” the human rights activist said, adding that ministers are constantly changing, but no one was worried about changing the criminal atmosphere inside the military to eliminate the corrupt, criminal cooperation in the army, among the commanders of the military units, and the investigative committee.
According to the chairman of the Peace Dialogue NGO Edgar Khachatryan, the impression is that the same actions are being done but different results are expected. According to him, the problem is systemic. When we talk about the army, the responsibility for any case first of all lies with the state. Even in a case when a soldier dies from an enemy shot, the responsibility lies with the state, because either the engineering structure was not built properly or the soldier’s commander did not take corresponding steps. Because, if the engineering structures worked, and if the soldiers did everything right, the risk of being hit by an enemy bullet would be minimalized.
“The task of the state is to reveal the problems of all levels and to take measures. I hear clear messages from the military headquarters that they will not publish these deaths on the grounds that “we do not want to make the enemy happy.”
Referring to the non-publication of deaths, the president of the Helsinki Association NGO, human rights activist Nina Karapetyants said:
“What does it mean they will not publish? Do people at the Ministry of Defense seriously think that Azerbaijan does not have that data? They do have that data and obtain it faster than you were able to collect before and after the war. If you do not know, it does not mean that they do not know. If you do not publish that information, I do not know who you serve, you do not serve this state. This is not normal.”
As for the activities of the investigative bodies, the human rights activist mentioned that the problem is impunity. The cases in the investigative bodies are handed over again to those who had examined and concealed those cases.
“One of the deputy ministers of this government announced that there are people in the civil society who rejoice when they receive information about a victim. No more immoral expression could be made.
Until today, the civil society is perceived as an enemy in regard of the army: there can be no more absurd idea, because our children will serve in the army, theirs will not. In addition to the fact that we have a big goal for the state to stabilize, we also have children to send there. We do not need to be reported about the type and quantity of weapons; we need to know what reforms you are making, that we continue to have problems with the same output,” the speaker added.
According to Nina Karapetyants, if we compare and see where the deaths were coming before the war, we will see why we lost the war, why the retreats took place, why the soldiers were left alone and the commanders fled. Here, we will see the direct connection between the right of one individual and the security of the state.”