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Driving Soldiers to Suicide to Be Criminalized Separately with More Severe Punishment 

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on State and Legal Issues, chaired by Naira Zohrabyan of Prosperous Armenia Party has unanimously voted in favor of the draft amendments to the Criminal Code by which driving a serviceman in the army will be punished by a stricter punishment and will be defined in two separate articles in the Criminal Code. 

The draft amendments propose two new articles in the Criminal Code of Armenia; Article 360.1 for “Incautiously driving a military serviceman to suicide” to be punished by imprisonment from 6 to 9 years and by 10 years in the event of a military state of emergency; and Article 360.2 “Driving a military serviceman to suicide by indirect intention” to be punished by imprisonment of up to 14 years. The current regulations envisage a general punishment from 3 to 5 years of imprisonment.

According to Naira Zohrabyan, these measures will act as a deterrent and will help to curtail the high level of suicide in the Armenian army. Naira Zohrabyan emphasizes that the number of deaths in the army due to suicide are higher than in military battle. While presenting the draft amendments, she recalled stories she heard from soldiers of how they were often bullied, humiliated and in a dominating subculture of bullying in the army, suicides continue to occur. Naira Zohrabyan also recalled conversations with soldiers hospitalized in the Military Hospital for mental disorders during which she heard stories of how they were humiliated in front of fellow servicemen. 

Both the government and all parliamentary forces are in favor of the draft amendments. 

Earlier in November, Deputy Defense Minister Gabriel Balayan told reporters that the number of suicides in the army tends to decrease. Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly of Vanadzor, a human rights organization that monitors human rights situation in the army and holds records of casualties (deaths) in the army insists that there are no signs that the number of suicides is on the fall. Between 2010 and 2019 (November) a relatively lower number of suicides was recorded in the period between 2013 and 2015, while overall, this number remains to be high. From 2010 to 2019, according to Vanadzor Helsinki Assembly, 630 deaths were recorded in the army, of which 249 (around 40%) were due to violation of the ceasefire, while about 23% of the remaining 60% of non-battle deaths were due to suicide. 

Battle (violation of ceasefire regiment) and non-battle casualties (deaths) in the armed forces of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh between 2010 and 2019 (Dec 9) 

Year Casualties according to HCAV NGO In battle situations (violation of ceasefire regiment) Non-battle casualties Of which Suicide Percentage of suicide in relation to total casualties Percentage of suicide in relation to non-battle casualties 
2010 45 9 36 5 11 % 14%
2011 38 11 27 11 29 % 41%
2012 50 12 38 12 24% 31%
2013 31 5 26 8 26% 31%
2014 45 26 19 3 7% 16%
2015 76 41 35 6 8% 17%
2016 175 111 64 13 7% 20%
2017 66 23 43 10 15% 22%
2018 63 7 56 11 17% 20%
2019 44 4 40 10 23% 25%
Total 633 249 384 89 14% 23%