BY NAZELI AVAGYAN
Armenian government has yet to hold its own military officers accountable for the deaths of its innocent soldiers in the Armed Forces. 19-year-old Tigran Hambardzumyan, who was brutally murdered in the Military Unit of Kapan, on June 29 2011, is just one example of a human rights abuse which has gone without any adequate actions to arrest those responsible for such an atrocious crime. Officials are treating Tigran’s death as a suicide, but his parents do not believe their son could commit suicide. In fact, they are certain that Tigran was murdered. According to studies conducted by HCA-Vanadzor, Tigran’s death is the 13th case in the armed forces since the beginning of 2011.
According to Arthur Sakunts, head of the Vanadzor-based Office of the Helsinki Civil Assembly, there have been 20 death reports in the Armenian armed forces this year. Based on reports from Human Rights Watch, only one case has been properly investigated—the case of 18-year old Agassi Abrahamyan, who was beaten to death in August of this year. As a result of investigations, officers were arrested from the military base of Yegnikner, which is based in Nagorno-Kharabakh. A week before Agassi’s death, 19-year-old Vardan Sevyan was found dead in a military unit located in town Goris. Non-combat deaths continue to disappoint the nation, which suggests that actions towards the protection of human rights in the Armenian army are not backed by serious commitments.
How many more innocent lives have to end in order for the Armenian government to realize that effective actions will be necessary for the protection of fundamental human rights? How many more cases need to be listed before the Armenian government realizes the responsibility to end such crimes? Since the military commanders are doing little to tackle human rights abuses, the answer to these questions remain unclear.
But no matter what, the parents of the deceased soldiers should be entitled for the legal right to claim for justice. Given the extend of violence in the Armenia’s armed forces, the driving force behind many of the claims has been, to protect or restore human dignity and the worth of an innocent human person. After all, there is no more fundamental right than the right to life.
Sovereignty and independence did not license the Armenian government to do as state authorities wished, but was meant to create at least, minimal human rights standards necessary for a well functioning and respected state. Today, a national focus remains necessary to put an end to violent crimes committed in the armed forces. Armenia’s government and military officials need to take on responsibility and punish violators of human rights. The failure to end violent crimes against soldiers in the Armenian armed forces will have a negative impact for future violators of human rights.
To this day the Armenian government struggles to find ways of working for human rights in meaningful ways. Although public protests by the parents of the deceased soldiers and human rights groups have been growing rapidly, short-term improvements of human rights conditions in the army have been rare to nonexistent. Human rights violations continue to occur and little effort is made to improve human rights conditions in Armenia. The Armenian government has a long way to go to achieve a balanced and systematic record concerning the protection of human rights.
Certain initiatives need to be designed and human rights instruments need to be developed by the Armenian government to help protect human rights. One important change that needs to be considered is for the Armenian government to begin examining private complaints more seriously. The Sarkisian administration should devote more time and attention to help implement efforts to monitor and improve state behavior pertaining to human rights in the military units. However, if the Armenian government continues to believe that most of the non-combat deaths in the military are suicide, then any recommendation put forth is unlikely to change government policy towards the military in the short term. Any effort to improve state behavior relating to human rights is a long-term project.
The Armenian government and military officials should not be there to create fear among Armenian citizens; rather they should be there to create an environment where soldiers are willing to serve their country. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Armenia today.
Tigran Hambardzumyan, Agassi Abrahamyan and Vardan Sevyan were not only soldiers but they were somebody’s son, brother, and friend, who did not deserve to be victims of such horrific crimes.