13 of the 17 servicemen who were captured during the hostilities that started on September 13, 2022 and were repatriated on October 4, were released from mandatory military service. The reason for the release is the health problems of the servicemen. Four servicemen continue their service. This was reported by the Ministry of Defense in response to Forrighst.am’s written request.

Such a decision was not easily made by the department headed by Suren Papikyan for those who returned from captivity. The soldiers who fought against the enemy and who were subjected to psychological and physical violence during captivity to psychological pressures were subjected to psychological pressures by the Ministry in the homeland.

Some of the conscripts who returned home from Baku were taken back to the army two weeks after their return without psychological support and rehabilitative treatment, while others remained in military hospitals. Despite the department’s claims that everything was done, the relatives of the soldiers raised the alarm about health problems and about not carrying out the necessary examinations and operations.

We witnessed painful facts about how wrong and dangerous this decision of the Ministry of Defense was to take the soldiers back to service after 15 days of their return. After returning from captivity, when one of the 17 soldiers was transferred back to service, he was in serious condition four days later and returned to the military hospital with even more complicated problems.

As in our previous publications, in this case too we refrain from publishing the identifying information about the soldiers. However, those responsible for the field, especially the military hospital, are well aware of these problems.

The Journalists for Human Rights NGO, whose is focuses especially on the servicemen, has always raised the issues of those returning from captivity on various platforms, asking direct questions to those holding positions in the military and political structures of Armenia, including Defense Minister Suren Papikyan. As a result of our consistent coverage, a decision was also made in RA to release the soldiers who returned from captivity. However, the solution of the problem did not reach the legislative field, remaining depending on the the conclusions of medical examinations. The examples of these 17 soldiers show that these examinations are not objective, because some of them were released from the army after returning to the military unit.

“Captivity is presented as an unforgivable sin against the state and the nation. The perception was that it was better to die than to be captured. This is a common point of view in both the Armed Forces and the Military Police. In the military police, they said, “Didn’t you have a grenade to blow yourself up?” I answered, “No, of course we didn’t, they were not provided by the people they were supposed to provide us with them,” told one of the soldiers about the treatment he received after returning to his homeland.

Most of the boys spent a long time in military hospitals, in a closed space. Although there were a TV and food, they were deprived of the opportunity to go out even to breathe fresh air. “Do we look like Azerbaijanis?” said one of the doctors, when the soldier’s parent drew attention to the fact that the boys continue to be in prison.

During these months, the NGO Journalists for Human Rights visited those who returned from captivity and was in constant contact with them. We supported the parents to alert the Ombudsman and the Ministry of Defense about their problems, to receive the financial support they are entitled to by the state in accordance with the law.

13 of the 17 soldiers who returned from captivity are trying to leave the difficult phase of their lives in the past and move forward: they are studying, trying to find jobs. One of them is a writer. The mother of one of the three soldiers in the service mentioned that there are several months left for her son to be ‘s demobilized. “I am proud that my son found strength in himself and was able to complete the services despite the difficulties,” said the mother.

It should be montioned that we do not encourage the refusal of military service by the efforts we have made to release these soldiers. We simply draw attention to the problems and ensure that the soldiers go to the army without physical and psychological problems.

P.S. It should be noted that all our publications on this topic have been carried out without identifying the soldiers, their places of service and family members, in order not to harm their rights.

Narek Kirakosyan

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