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Report on the Death Cases in the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in the First Half of 2020

July 27, 2020

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HCA Vanadzor presents summary statistics of death cases of servicemen in the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh (RA/NK) during January-June 2020. The statistical data were collected through information disseminated by mass media and official sources, as well as through the responses to information inquiries sent by the Organization to official structures (RA Ministry of Defense, RA Prosecutor General’s Office, RA Investigative Committee).

 

Thus, in the first half of 2020, death cases of 31 servicemen were recorded in the Armed Forces of the RA and NK. Out of the 31 cases 10 occurred as a result of health problems, 8 occurred as a result of suicide or inciting suicide, 6 occurred as a result of accident (3 occurred as a result of avalanche, 1 occurred as a result of falling into a gorge, 1 occurred as a result of fire which broke out in the car, 1 occurred as a result of overturning of a tractor), 2 occurred as a result of murder (1 murder with hooligan motives, 1 murder committed to conceal a crime or to facilitate its commission), 3 occurred as a result of car crash, 1 occurred as a result of ceasefire violation, 1 occurred as a result of a mine explosion.

 

It should be mentioned that as compared to the same time period of 2019, the number of death cases is more by 1 (in the first half of 2019 30 death cases were recorded). 

 

Official announcement was disseminated only for 17 out of 31 death cases in 2020, no official announcement was disseminated on the other 14 cases (8 occurred as a result of health problems, 2 occurred as a result of car crash, 2 occurred as a result of suicide). Those cases were later considered as not related to military service in the information received from the RA Central Military Prosecutor’s Office in response to an official inquiry.

 

7 out of the mentioned 14 cases became known through non-official sources. HCA Vanadzor later got informed about them by an official inquiry, i.e. from the RA Prosecutor General’s Office. 

 

HCA Vanadzor records that in official formulation (as classified by the RA Prosecutor General’s Office), no official announcement was disseminated in regard to death cases not related to the military service. 

 

Comparing the causes of death cases recorded in the first half of 2019 and first half of 2020, we record that in 2020, death cases caused by suicide increased by 4, death cases caused by accidents increased by 5 and death cases caused by health problems increased by 2. 

 

Observing servicemen’s death cases caused by suicide (4) and murder (3) in the first half of 2019, we can record, that death cases by the above-mentioned causes amount to nearlyone fourth of the total number of death cases. While death cases caused by suicide (8) and murder (2) in the first half of 2020 amount to one third of the death cases.

 

Suicide and murder cases are mainly consequences of violations of statuory relations between servicemen. Therefore, the problems pertaining to maintenance of military discipline continue to be unresolved andhighlyconcerning. Besides, the continuity of suicide and murder cases in the Armed Forces indicates that either proper service investigation is not conducted or the steps aimed at preventing, eliminating or solving the problems discovered and recorded as a result of service investigations are far from being effective.

 

It should be noted that in the first half of 2020, both suicide and murder cases were recorded in April (2) and May (2).

 

Let us remind that in HCA Vanadzor report “On the death cases in the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia and Republic of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh in the first half of 2020”, we touched upon the sharp increase in the number of suicide cases in January- February 2020, which generated great public discontent and indignation. We also noted that the cases coincided with the time period of campaign for the presidential and parliamentary elections in the Republic of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh. After public discontent, in March, suicide cases were not recorded. It should be mentioned that nevertheless, it is not known whether the RA and NK Ministries of Defense or the relevant investigative bodies conducted relevant examinations into the discovery of causes and conditions of those cases and all cases in general, since, in accordance with semi-annual data, it can be seen that since April, death cases were recorded not only as a result of suicide, but also as a result of murder.

 

With regard to accidents, we should state that in 2020, the number of death cases caused by them increased. In the first half of 2019, only one case occurred as a result of an accident, while in the first half of 2020, six servicemen died from causes of such nature (19% of the total number of cases).

 

In particular, in the first half of 2020, 3 contract servicemen died as a result of avalanche on their way from the military positions to the military unit, while, according to news.am data, the snow layer under their feet opened and they fell and remained under the thick layer of snow for a long time. In 1 case, a serviceman died as a result of falling into a gorge. This case, as well as the previous one, was officially considered as related to military service. Nevertheless, it is not known yet how a serviceman fell into a gorge while conducting the service. Whereas, in response to the Organization’s inquiry, the Prosecutor’s Office informed that the criminal case initiated on the death of the serviceman was discontinued on the ground of the absence of a crime.

 

There were also 2 cases as a result of accidents. One of them was recorded as a result of fire that broke out in the car driven by another person, while the serviceman was a passenger in that car and did not manage to get out. The Prosecutor’s Office considered this case as not related to military service. And in the other case, which was also considered by the Prosecutor’s Office as not related to military service, the serviceman was on free shift when the incident happened. The case was recorded as a result of overturning of a tractor.

 

Based on the increase in the number of death cases caused by accidents, it can be assumed that either servicemen do not observe service safety rules or they do not receive proper instructions on the above-mentioned rules.

 

While speaking about the observation of service safety rules, it should be mentioned that in the first half of 2020, 1 death case occurred as a result of a mine explosion. Moreover, the person who died was an officer, which is even more concerning taking into account the obligation of the officers’ staff to have the relevant level of preparedness and to observe all the safety rules when organizing military service.

 

In the first half of 2020, 10 death cases of servicemen were recorded as a result of health problems, which also amount to about one third of the total number of death cases. 2 of the cases were officially considered (by the Prosecutor’s Office) as related to military service, 8 were considered as not related to military service. Moreover, death cases of 2 servicemen conducting their compulsory military service were considered as related to military service, while death cases of 4 contract servicemen, 3 officers and 1non- commissioned officer were considered as not related to military service.

 

As the statistics shows, death cases as a result of health problems are also rather concerning, even if they are officially considered as not related to military service.

 

In this context, a question arises whether all the measures of medical control of servicemen’s health state provided for by RA Law “On Approving the Internal Service Code of the RA Armed Forces” properly implemented or not. Statistical data allow assuming that in-depth and control or preventive observation is not conducted properly, while, if ensured, it can prevent death cases occurring as a result of health problems.

 

In the first half of 2020, death cases as a result of car crashes significantly reduced and there were 3 cases, as compared to the first half of 2019, when there were 12 such cases.

 

2 cases out of the three death cases as a result of car crash in the first half of 2020 occurred as a result of car crash of servicemen’s own/civilian cars, while in 1 case, the serviceman was in a car which was in MoD balance. 

 

As compared to 2019, death cases as a result of car crash reduced in 2020, yet death cases recorded in the first half of 2020 by technical causes amount to nearly 10% of the total number of death cases.

 

Summing up the aforementioned, we record that the greater part, i.e. 97% of death cases recorded in the first half of 2020 occurred in non-combat conditions, in particular, 32% occurred as a result of health problems, 26% occurred as a result of suicide, 19% occurred as a result of accidents, 10% occurred as a result of car crash, 7% occurred as a result of murder, 3% occurred as a result of mine explosion, while death cases that occurred as a result of ceasefire violation in combat conditions amount to only 3% of the total number of death case (one death case).

 

It should also be mentioned that the majority of cases in 2020 occurred in January, February and June, with 6, 7 and 10 cases respectively, 3 cases were recorded in March and 3 cases were recorded in May, 2 cases were recorded in April.

 

Out of 31 servicemen who died in 2020, 14 were contract term servicemen, 9 were compulsory term servicemen, 7 were officers and 1 was a non-commissioned officer.

 

Out of 30 servicemen who died in 2019, 8 were compulsory term servicemen, 13 were contract term servicemen, 4 were officers, 3 were non-commissioned officers, in 2 cases the type of the military service has not been clarified yet.

 

Observing death cases according to the cause and military service type of the servicemen who died, we can notice that the causes of death cases among compulsory term servicemen are as follows:  suicide (4 cases),  health problems (2 cases), murder(2 cases),  car crash (1 case).

 

Causes of death cases among contract term servicemenare as follows:  accidents (5 cases),  health problems (4 cases),  suicide (3 cases),  car crash (1 case),  ceasefire violation (1 case). 

Causes of death cases among officers are as follows  health problems (3 cases),  suicide (1 case), car crash (1 case), accident (1 case)  mine explosion (1 case).

 

Thus, we can record that in the first half of 2020, death cases caused by suicide, health problems and car crash were recorded among both compulsory term and contract term servicemen, as well as among officers.

 

With regard to the classification of being related or not related to military service, in accordance with the information provided to HCA Vanadzor by the RA Central Military Prosecutor’s Office, 17 out of 31 death cases were considered as related to military service and 14 were considered as not related to military service.RA Investigative Committee provided the Organization with information pertaining only to the death cases of 18servicemen, in connection with which pre-trial proceedings are conducted in the RA IC General Military Investigative Department subdivisions. The above-mentioned data provided by the RA IC (17 out of 18 death cases of servicemen were considered as related to military service and 1 was considered as not related) coincides with the data of the RA Prosecutor General’s Office.

 

It should be mentioned that though in the first and second quarters of 2020 HCA Vanadzor sent information inquiries to the RA IC, claiming information on death cases both related and not related to military service, in response to the inquiry of the first quarter, RA IC provided data only regarding the death cases that were related to military service, while in response to the inquiry of second quarter of 2020, besides the death cases related to military service, RA IC also provided details regarding only 1 death case not related to military service.

 

In terms of the timeframes of information inquiries, it should be noted that the response to the letter sent by HCA Vanadzor to the RA Ministry of Defense on 29 June 2020 was not received in a timeframe provided for by law. Nearly a month passed after sending the letter, while the RA Law “On freedom of information” establishes a five-day term for responding to information inquiries.

 

HCA Vanadzor also examines the statistics of ceasefire violations and gunfire on the contact line of RA/NK with Azerbaijan. The above-mentioned data are published on the official webpage of RA/NK MoD. Information regarding the number of ceasefire violations on the line of contact of Armenia and Azerbaijan is not available, as it is not published on the RA MoD official webpage. And in response to the inquiry on the number of ceasefire violations sent by HCA Vanadzor to the RA MoD at the end of 2019, the provision of information was rejected by invoking Chapter 17 Clause 42 of Order N9 “On Approving the Enhanced Ministerial List of RA MoD System Information Subject to Becoming Classified”. 

 

As compared to the first half of 2019, in the same time period of 2020, both the number of ceasefire violations (by 1335) and gunfires shot (by 17050) reduced in the RA/NK. 

 

As it has already been mentioned, these data include only the ceasefire violation cases on the line of contact of NK and Azerbaijan. 1 death case as a result of a ceasefire violation in the first half of 2020 was recorded in the RA territory.

 

We find it necessary to note that though the number of ceasefire violations on the line of contact of NK and Azerbaijan reduced in the first half of 2020, since 12 July 2020, a sharp aggravation of the situation 5 was recorded on Armenia-Azerbaijan border, in the direction of RA Tavush region. This led not only to great material damage, but also to death cases of servicemen of the armed forces of both countries.

 

In total, the tense and aggravated situation on the border lasted for 4 days, i.e. from 12 July until 16 July, after which the RA MoD Spokesperson regularly published information regarding the maintenance of relative calm at the border.

 

In the next information paper of October 2020, HCA Vanadzor will touch upon the cases recorded at the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan, i.e. attempts of diversion invasions, fires shot, types of weapon used and death cases.

 

The report also includes criminal cases initiated on the facts of servicemen’s death cases in the first half of 2020. According to the available information disseminated officially and through mass media, criminal cases were initiated on 18 out of 31 death cases in the RA and NK Armed Forces in the first half of 2020 under different articles of the RA Criminal Code. 17 out of 18 cases are in the preliminary investigation stage, proceeding of a criminal case initiated on 1 death case was discontinued based on the absence of a criminal act. Materials are being prepared on one case, which, too, was considered as not related to military service by the RA Prosecutor General’s Office. In the frame of 8 cases, it is not known whether criminal cases were initiated or not. 

 

Full report is available HERE

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