A coalition of several Azerbaijani human rights groups has been tracking non-combat deaths and notes a disturbing upward trend. Based on Defense Ministry information not released to the public, the Group of Monitoring Compliance with Human Rights in the Army (GMCHRA) has recorded the deaths of 76 soldiers to date in non-combat incidents for 2011, and the injury of 91 others. That compares with 62 non-combat deaths and 71 cases of injury in 2010. Possible reasons for the increase were not identified.
“Civil society cannot stand aside from these problems,” commented Arzu Abdullayeva, one of GMCHRA’s founders and the head of Azerbaijan’s National Committee of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly.
In general, the Azerbaijani public has remained passive on this issue. In 2009, several anonymously posted videos on social networking websites depicted soldiers beating, as well as the humiliation of fresh draftees – a practice known as dedovshchina during the Soviet era. The videos prompted prosecutions and prison terms for the accused. But this case has proven the exception, rather than the rule.
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