Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Armenia: Army Non-Combat Deaths Prompt Calls for Reform

September 7, 2010 - 2:55pm, by Gayane Abrahamyan

After the deaths of seven soldiers this summer in non-combat-related shootings, public pressure for reform is coming to bear on one of Armenia’s most closed institutions -- its armed forces.

Reports of physical abuse and suicides in the Armenian army are not new. Such incidents are in part connected to a tradition of hazing, known as dedovshchina, which was practiced in the Soviet Army before Armenia regained independence in 1991. But Armenia’s army in the past month-and-a-half has undergone a greater number of non-combat-related shooting deaths than at any time since the Soviet Union’s collapse. The shootings have focused public attention on the military abuse issue.

On July 28, a conscript stationed in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh shot dead two lieutenants and three privates before killing himself. Less than a month later, on August 17, the process repeated itself when 26-year-old Junior Sergeant Haroutiun Vardanian shot dead a fellow non-commissioned officer, 44-year-old Junior Sergeant Arsen Chobanian. Vardanian was arrested and charged with premeditated murder.

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