Today we are celebrating the 28th anniversary of the formation of the RA armed forces.
28 years ago, the Armenian army was established as a guarantor of securing the territorial integrity, security and protection of the citizens of a sovereign state.
We also join in the congratulations and wish servicemen a safe, peaceful and dignified service.
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor has been monitoring human rights in the armed forces since 2008 and throughout these years we have recorded a number of problems. Some of them were solved, however, a great number of the important problems recorded remain problematic.
We tried to sum up all the problems recorded by us, in particular, the ones regarding call-ups, as well as recommendations presented by us for their solution, and to understand which recommendations have been presented in our reports for years on end and which of them are still unsolved, which are not up-to-date anymore.
Initially, we recorded the lack of mechanisms of civil and public oversight over call-ups and military service, conduction of medical examinations during call-ups, problems regarding the conscription of persons with dual citizenship, discrimination in the process of granting a deferral.
It is noteworthy that some problems recorded 12 years ago are still up-to-date today.
If we compare recommendation lists presented in different years, we can record that most of them have been presented for a few years already and have still not been accepted.
Below we are presenting the recommendations that were presented over the past years since 2008 and are being implemented in part or in full (some recommendations have lost their significance due to various conditions)
- with regard to informing about the citizens’ rights and obligations during the call-up, we can record that awareness is raised only regarding obligations;
- legislation established a definite mandatory condition of providing the conscript with copies of medical documents and conclusions on fitness for military service, and in practice, this is mainly implemented;
- the RA Law “On Alternative Service” continues remaining problematic with regard to being in line with the standards of human rights on alternative service insomuch as there is a lack of an opportunity to change the service into an alternative one during the service and due to the latter being longer than a regular service;
- the independent controlling mechanism excluding and preventing the inclusion of servicemen recognized fit for non-line military service or military service with limitations in line service mainly functions, with some exceptions;
- with regard to our recommendation presented for years on end on establishing by law the procedure of deciding servicemen’s fitness for military service based on health problems, we can record that instead of the order of the Ministry of Defense, it is now established by the Government’s decision;
- with regard to conducting the mandatory complex medical examination of conscripts and servicemen irrespective of their complaints, we can record that there is an established list and though there are exceptions, they are mainly guided by the list;
- based on the problems recorded during winter 2015 and summer 2016 call-ups, we recommended abolishing the practice of medical institutions claiming an information paper stating that a person is a conscript. Today there are institutions that do not demand such an information paper.
Though certain improvements have taken place, there are still a number of important recommendations that have been up-to-date since 2008. They are presented in our report “On the state of the rights of conscripts during winter 2018 and summer 2019 call-ups”.
Regarding legal problems
1․ Provide quality examination of conscripts referred from distant residence places in a short timeframe within the same day, if there is no need for additional measures based on the complexity of the disease.
2․ Provide conscripts and the persons who accompany them with sufficient financial means to cover all the expenses of transportation in case of being referred to medical institutions, and staying overnight in the capital, if necessary.
3․ Make the following changes in the RA Government’s 404-N decision,
- make the diseases in line with the 10th revision of International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), which was approved in the Republic of Armenia in 2005,
- clearly establish in the list of diseases the timeframe of deferrals granted for each disease,
- clarify time-related terms,
- determine expertise procedure in case of refusing treatment. Further expertise procedure is not determined for those diseases in case of refusing treatment.
- exclude negative, offensive, empathetic (such as suffering) and other terms,
- clearly specify criteria for assessing the severity of a disease,
- clearly identify the methods and criteria determining the levels of a disease’s functions,
- clarify the diagnostic methods that confirm the existence or size of health problems,
- exclude uncertainty and possibilities of subjective approach by specialists and medical institutions, which can adversely affect the objectivity of the decision on conscripts’ fitness for military service.
4․ After granting a deferral for treatment, provide the conscript’s treatment by determining a precise procedure.
5․ Determine assessment mechanisms and legal grounds of military service conscription by taking into consideration the simultaneous existence of two and more diseases and its influence on one’s health state in case of being overloaded. Adopt the same approach for servicemen considering the acquisition of the fifth disease during the military service as a basis to review the serviceman’s fitness for military service.
6․ Make the assessment of international higher educational institutions operating in the RA consistent with the RA legislation by establishing a unified assessment system in the RA.
Regarding the problems related to law enforcement practice
- Provide the practice of proper document or electronic notification to citizens subject to military service. While notifying, also provide information regarding a conscript’s rights and obligations during military enlistment and military service.
- Establish oversight over the activity of commissions conducting expertise to study all the documents reflecting the results of medical examinations and include them in the final decisions.
- Secure the principle of confidentiality of conscripts’ health state during their medical examination.
- During the announced call-up, exclude the implementation and application of legislative changes as a result of which review of the degree of fitness for military service is possible.
Regarding the problems related to improper examination of health state of conscripts and persons of pre-conscription age
- Provide the implementation of additional examination measures, including expensive ones, as prescribed by the RA Government’s decision 404, for the confirmation or denial of a disease, and make conscripts’ medical diagnosis commensurate with their real health state.
- Provide the mandatory complex medical examination of conscripts irrespective of the existence of complaints.
- Conduct medical examination of conscripts (with more than one health problem) on each problem and present the conclusion on health state for all the health problems irrespective of the decision of fitness based on one problem.
- Provide the implementation of conscripts’ operations according to the diseases diagnosed, in case there are operation instructions before the call-up and the conscript does not refuse to be operated on.
- Based on seasonal and weather-related diseases, take into consideration the nature of the disease and conduct the examinations according to the time of the year.
Regarding the problems pertaining to the right of getting information
- Eliminate cases of refusing to give copies of the necessary medical documents on the examination of a conscripts’ health state, as well as CMC decision copies in military commissariats, and cases of refusing to give copies of the necessary documents on medical documents related to health state examination in medical institutions.
Problems related to degrading treatment or ill-treatment
- Eradicate the vicious practice of making conscripts wait for a long time to undergo a medical examination during the call-up and establish the maximum number of conscripts and timetable for conducting health state examinations per day.
The great number of death cases registered in the armed forces due to non-statutory relationship remains concerning, despite the fact that as compared to previous years, the total number of death cases in the armed forces has a downward trend.
Only 4 out of 49 cases recorded in 2019 were caused by ceasefire violations, 10 cases were qualified as suicide or inciting suicide. The same was recorded in 2018, when 7 out of 63 cases were caused by ceasefire violation, 11 were caused by suicide or inciting suicide.