Friday, July 30, 2010

Mystery Surrounds Shooting Deaths In Armenian Army

July 30, 2010
YEREVAN -- Six Armenian Army servicemen have reportedly been shot dead this week in two separate noncombat-related incidents, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The Armenian Defense Ministry reported July 29 that an "incident" involving the "use of firearms" and resulting in an unspecified number of casualties took place at one of its military bases on July 28. It gave no details, saying only that military investigators have received the "strictest orders" to clarify all circumstances of the incident.

A source close to the Armenian government told RFE/RL that the incident occurred at an Armenian Army unit in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The source said a soldier serving there shot dead four officers before turning the gun on himself. The report cannot be confirmed.

On July 26, another officer was found dead at an army outpost on Armenia's border with Azerbaijan. Citing "preliminary information," the Defense Ministry said Lieutenant Artak Nazarian shot himself for unknown reasons.

But Nazarian's relatives have rejected the official theory and accused the military of a cover-up.

Nazarian's cousin, Narek Gharibian, was present at a forensic examination of his body conducted at a Yerevan morgue on July 27. Gharibian told RFE/RL that forensic medics found numerous injuries on the dead officer's face, hands, shoulders and feet. He said they believe the injuries were inflicted several hours before his death.

Sources told RFE/RL that military investigators have questioned several officers from Nazarian's unit. No one has been arrested or charged so far.

The Armenian armed forces have been plagued with hazing and other abuses resulting in at least a dozen noncombat deaths each year since their establishment in 1992. Senior and midranking army officers have rarely been prosecuted in connection with those crimes. Those who are put on trial usually get off with short prison sentences.

The Armenian military insists it is doing its best to address the problem in earnest. It says the number of such incidents has steadily and significantly declined since the late 1990s. According to Defense Ministry data, at least seven Armenian soldiers died due to abuse and mistreatment and 11 others committed suicide last year.

--Source: Radio Free Europe

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