On October 24, 2019 shamshyan.com website reported that a conscript serving in Kapan town left the military unit without official leave (absent without official leave, AWOL) and was missing, with a reference to the relative of the soldier. The relative told shamshyan.com reporters that the commanders informed them that they had not allowed the soldier to take a leave and therefore the soldier jumped over the wall and left the military unit without official permission. The military police was notified to search for the soldier, however for over a week he was not found neither in his native town Vanadzor, nor in Yerevan where he was in temporary residence. The head of the Military Police, Arthur Baghdasaryan personally committed to finding the missing conscript.
The soldier was declared found by the military police on October 28, however the statements of the public officials over this incident have raised a public outrage.
Zhanna Aleksanyan of Journalists for Human Rights NGO has made a number of Facebook posts on this issue raising serious concerns over the public statements and actions of state officials. She first criticized Artsrun Hovhannisyan, Speaker of the Ministry of Defense for articulating statements that in essence are a public pressure and threat to punish days before he was found. “The military police is searching, while the conscript is not found yet. Yes, it is important to find him alive and in good health. Practice shows that the main reasons for conscripts going AWOL include the unhealthy environment, beatings, pressures from the commanders. On top of this, Artsrun Hovhannisyan is making statements by which he takes on the role of a body carrying out sanctions and is promising to bring the conscript to criminal liability and is thus making a public pressure and articulating a threat. The responsibility for the loss of the soldier is upon the Ministry of Defense, we are ready to support the family of the soldier,” writes Aleksanyan on her Facebook page on October 25, almost 6 days after the fact of the soldier missing from the military unit was known.
In the meantime, Artsrun Hovhannisyan called the public outcry an attempt to make a show. “Regardless of what kind of a commotion is made, what kind of shows are staged, the conscript will be brought to a criminal liability for missing from the military unit for more than 3 days.” He had earlier made even more sarcastic posts on his Facebook, that “the Armenian ‘media outlets’ most loved in Baku had reported that the relatives of the conscripts had informed the state bodies of the fact of the soldier missing. “… You, smart ones, what is this theater for when the military police are working with the family of the soldier, other institutions are intensively working, searching?” This was probably a hint that the searches had not been commenced at the alert of the relatives, as was reported.
The latest of Zhanna Aleksanyan’s statements is that of November 1st, 2019, after the soldier was declared found. Now she decries Artsrun Hovhannisyan’s and Arthur Baghdasaryan’s disclosure of alleged private life information as an attempt to conceal the true reasons for going AWOL. She states “False information has been disclosed by Arthur Baghdasaryan and privileged Artsrun Hovhannisyan about the conscript that had gone AWOL in order to humiliate and punish him. They are now stating that the reason for his AWOL was his sexual orientation. They are now turning his return to the military unit into a hell. This false information is published by “Armlur” daily without cross references. However, the soldier has completely other issues of which he informed our lawyer. This is yet another example of how the military elites are treating the poor, parentless [father passed away], unprotected soldier.” Artsrun Hovhannisyan had earlier written on his Facebook page: “The lost one is found. It turns out the adventures were even more colorful. He was resting at his friend’s place. Other details to come later.”