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Defense Minister’s Order Has Made Armenian Army Less Accessible to Public, Expert Says

The Armenian army is becoming more and more closed off to the public, Edgar Khachatryan, Director of Peace Dialogue NGO said in an interview with Epress.am.

“The army shows the tendency of completely 'closing down,' and the [Armenian officials’] statements claiming the army has become more transparent, more controllable by citizens are turning into a myth, a fairy tale,” Khachatryan said. 

One of the clearest examples of the army becoming less accessible, as stated by the interviewee, is the executive order issued by Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan in August 2015 according to which all information concerning non-combat fatal incidents in the military forces, as well as the information revealing their causes are now considered classified. Citing this order, the Defense Ministry has refused to provide information on servicemen who died in non-combat military conditions to the Peace Dialogue NGO. 

At the same time, Khachatryan stressed, the Ministry has been trying to create an impression that in reality this information is not classified. The human rights activist, specifically, quoted Deputy Defense Minister Ara Nazaryan's interview to local “Armenpress” news outlet, in which the official refuted the news on the ban on the provision of information. In court, however, the Ministry of Defense objected to the NGO's motion to provide information on the dead serviceman, citing the Minister's order. 

Thus, the director of the human rights organization said, the Defense Ministry is trying to discredit dissidents and human rights defenders who voice serious concerns. 

“Society gets the impression that in this tense situation a couple of fools are raising issues which are not even issues, they are fictitious, and thus [these fools] try to discredit our Ministry of Defense. This is what's presented to the public, and therefore, there's no outrage,” Khachatryan stated.

Currently, he added, their organization is aware of two cases of soldiers' death; however, the NGO has been unable to find out any information on the soldiers since, after the issuance of the order, the Ministry of Defense has not released any information about the incidents. 

The human rights activist finds it important to not only investigate the cases of murder or suicide attributed to military hazing, but also all military deaths caused by “misadventure or enemy fire.”

“See, they say it was an accident, the car rolled over, killing 3 or 4 soldiers. It is important to understand what the technical condition of the car was. There have been a number of such incidents; specifically, in 2003, there was an incident where eyewitnesses told the soldiers were being transported by this vehicle to work in the commander's summer house. If a soldier has died in such circumstances, it is not an accident,” Khachatryan said.

Peace Dialogue NGO, he stressed, intends to appeal the Minister's order to Armenian courts, and then, if unsuccessful, to the European Court of Human Rights.

Video in Armenian