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Armenian Soldier’s Death Was Not Suicide, Father Insists

Arsen Mkhitaryan, a 20-year-old conscript of Armenia’s armed forces, was found dead on July 3 with a single gunshot wound through his chin in a fighting position of a Tavush military unit; military authorities soon alleged that the soldier had committed suicide and went on to initiate a criminal case under article 110.1 of Armenia’s Criminal Code (incitement to suicide). 

However, speaking at a news conference Friday, Norayr Norikyan, a lawyer for the soldier’s legal successor, insisted that it is possible that Mkhitaryan did not commit suicide but was shot deliberately by a fellow serviceman affiliated with higher-ranking army officers.

“It’s been three months [since the case was opened] but the circumstances [of Mkhitaryan’s death] have yet to be established. [The soldier’s family] are unhappy with and do not trust the investigative body since the investigation has so far been unproductive. We’ve analysed the case materials and we are convinced that the killer or the killers have patrons among higher ranking officers who are doing their best to cover up the case,” the lawyer said, adding that one of the “patrons” was a veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh war and came from the same village in Armenia where one of Mkhitaryan’s fellow servicemen was born. Still, Norikyan refused to name the above-mentioned high-ranking officers, due to confidentiality reasons.

Following the soldier’s death, Norikyan continued, their team visited his military unit and talked to a number of his fellow servicemen; “We found out that Arsen was having problems with several soldiers in the days leading to his death. We informed the investigation team about this, but they did not act on this information… We don’t even know yet whether [Mkhitaryan] was killed with his own service weapon or not.”

The soldier’s family, who do not believe their son was capable of suicide, filed a motion on August 30 with the military prosecutor requesting another investigation ream; however, the request was denied. “No matter what we petition for, it seems like they’ll never grant it… Military authorities are convinced no one is guilty for Arsen’s death, so they do not intend to prosecute anyone,” lawyer Norikyan stated.