We Have a Right to Know the Truth About the Death of our Children

April 27, 2015
The mothers of soldiers Tigran Ohanganyan, Arthur Ghazaryan and Valerik Muradyan, died in non-combat conditions in the RA Armed Forces. Video: © 2015, Peace Dialogue

Peace Dialogue has launched a video campaign called “We Have a Right to Know the TRUTH!” The video campaign will consist of a series 30-second video-interviews with members of the families of soldiers who died in the Army in non-combat conditions. The focus of the video will be expressing their right to know what happened to their sons, husbands and brothers. We have found in our work documenting these deaths in the Safe Soldiers for a Safe Armenia project that many families do not believe the version of the “fatal accidents” that resulted in the death of their family members.

According to several civil society groups, more than 200 soldiers have died in the Armenian Military during the last five years. Many died as a result of violations of the cease-fire regime signed between Armenian and Azerbaijanis in 1994 after the Nagorno-Karabakh war. However, during these same years many died as a result of other internal issues: suicides, murders, fatal incidents or because of lack of access to medical service in their military units.

At the end of 2014, Peace Dialogue NGO filed a lawsuit in order to obtain information on the fatalities of persons serving in the military from the Ministry of Defense in Armenia (MoD). The Administrative Court of the Republic of Armenia (RA) has decided to allow the lawsuit to proceed and will hold hearings on two cases related to this most important issue.

The first case would obligate the Ministry of Defense to provide information including; the full names of the deceased soldiers, the location of the incident, the date, unit number, unit commander’s full name and title, the cause of death and all other publicly available information. The second part of the lawsuit calls for administrative penalties against Minister Seyran Ohanyan of the Ministry of Defense for ignoring the relevant inquiries in regards to providing this information as it is required by Armenian law.

Recently two state institutions: the MoD and the General Prosecutor’s office refused to provide related information to other civil society groups on this issue. They described their refusal, by explaining that the required information is classified, not to be published and can only be viewed by those with restricted access.

Peace Dialogue argues that the required information should not be classified, as it does not include the restrictions prescribed in the RA legislation. Furthermore, the MoD already provided the same information to Peace Dialogue for the time period of 2010 to 2011. Apart from that, some of the information requested by Peace Dialogue is being published by the MoD in their own press releases and public statements concerning fatal accidents in the Armenian Military. The Armenian legislation prescribes that even in cases when the inquiry contains classified information, the officials are still obligated to provide the rest of the information, which was not the case in this situation.

A number of cases have been recorded by Peace Dialogue and other watchdog groups in Armenia, which clearly show that sometimes the official version does not reflect what really happened. Peace Dialogue argues that investigative bodies have violated legal procedures during the preliminary investigation or/and judicial processes. In some cases civil society control over the military, made it possible to reach a reasonable resolution of the issues.

The “We Have a Right to Know the TRUTH!” campaign aims at increasing public accessibility to information regarding the fatal casualties in the army. Peace Dialogue believes that this accessibility will help form public demand for more transparency in order to prevent additional illegalities and falsifications of the investigations in the Armenian Army.

This material was prepared in the framework of the Safe Soldiers for a Safe Armenia project of Peace Dialogue NGO.

The project Safe Soldiers for a Safe Armenia is supported by the Dutch organisation Pax.

paxlogobw900means peace. PAX brings together people who have the courage to stand for peace. Together with people in conflict areas and concerned citizens worldwide, PAX works to build dignified, democratic, and peaceful societies across the globe.