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Armenian Soldiers’ Families Not Provided Full Information About Their Sons’ Deaths

Shortage of bullets, malfunctioning vehicles, lack of diesel fuel, improper medical care, and police-supervised closed caskets… Lack of information about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Armenian soldiers during the “four-day war” in April impelled their relatives to conduct their own investigation into the actual events that occurred in Karabakh in that period. Nevertheless, to date, some of the relatives of fallen soldiers do not know the exact cause and circumstances of the soldiers' deaths, representatives of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor office said at a press conference on Wednesday, presenting the findings of their recent study.

In the period May-June, the human rights organization conducted surveys among 61 Armenia-based families of servicemen who died in April in NKR military units and found out that the relatives had not been properly informed about the details and causes of the soldiers' deaths. Furthermore, some of the families told the researchers that the servicemen had not been provided with sufficient arms and ammunition, nor had they received timely medical treatment. Out of a total of 61 surveyed families, only one were informed about the circumstances surrounding their relative's death immediately after its occurrence. The rest of the families described military officials' phone calls to inform about their sons' deaths as “patriotic pathos.”

“They'd start the conversation with parents by telling them that 'you're a hero's mother,' or 'you're a hero's father.' They'd try to soften the blow by presenting the dead soldiers as heroes,” HCAV member Armine Sadikyan said. 

HCAV head Artur Sakunts, for his part, stressed that 53 of the families do not have complete information about the details of their relatives deaths. Some of them, Sakunts added, carried out their own investigation and found out that the servicemen hadn't been provided with enough weapons to fight the “four-day war.” The relatives of a soldier who died in Jabrayil on April 2, for instance, visited the area and discovered that all the servicemen fighting in that territory had been killed due to arms shortage. In addition, the killed soldiers' fellow servicemen reportedly told the relatives that they had “a lot to say” but did not dare to because they were still serving.

At least 3 families, the HCAV head went on, informed the researchers that their relatives' had died because of inappropriate medical treatment. Conscript Hayk Minasyan, who died in a NKR unit on April 26, was treated only after five hours of wounding.

Two of the 61 families, according to Sakunts, said that they had not even been allowed to open the caskets and see their relatives' bodies. “Parents told us that police kept the caskets under surveillance throughout the night. One of the mothers even said that she still did not believe her son was inside the coffin,” the HCAV head stated, adding that the organization intended to submit their findings to the defense ministry and demand in immediate internal investigation into these claims.