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How and who decides which information is considered a service or state secret

March 30, 2021

Activities | Publications | News | State Institutions | Right to Seek and Receive Information | Civilian Oversight and Monitoring

On 28 March 2021, Chief of the RA Armed Forces Military Medical Department, colonel Sahak Ohanyan informed the media that among the MoD and GS staff employees, 150 covid-infected persons were getting treatment. “Taking into account that during the 44-day war of Artsakh, there was movement of troops and mobilization of mass human resources, there was a period of a spike in Covid-19 cases up to 3500 cases. However, due to continual work, we managed to significantly reduce these numbers in two months. Currently, we have 150 cases of Covid-19”, Sahak Ohanyan said. At the same time, he also mentioned that the state of those infected was not grave, and that throughout the pandemic, 10 covid-related death cases were recorded in the Armed Forces. 

 

On 27 July 2020, HCA Vanadzor sent an information inquiry to the RA Ministry of Defence regarding the total number of covid-infected servicemen, covid-related death cases, servicemen getting in-patient treatment and isolated servicemen.  

 

By the note of 19 August 2020, the RA MoD refused to provide information, making a reference to clause 1 of paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the RA Law “On state and service secret” and requirements of section 10 (Information on the events and situation of signal and AMS security), section 17 (The list of military formations, formations and military units during the war period) and section 20 (Information on the mobilization capacity and creation of the armament, military equipment and material-technical means) of the list approved by RA MoD order N 9-Ն of 09.07.2015, considering that the required information contains state and service secrets on the aforementioned grounds. 

 

As you can see, the information inquired by the Organization did not concern information on the events and situation of signal and AMS security, information on the mobilization capacity and creation of the armament, military equipment and material-technical means, let alone information on the events and situation of signal and AMS security. Nonetheless, the defense agency referred to the aforementioned points and refused to provide the information. Recently, however, the information refused on the basis of secrecy was published by the Colonel, Chief of the RA Armed Forces Military Medical Department. 

 

This approach is incomprehensible  and does not stem from the principles of accountability and transparency (typical of a democratic state), as well as the principle of foreseeability of the conduct of the governing body, principles of legal certainty and proportionality.   

 

We find it necessary to remind that back on 30 March 2020, HCA Vanadzor sent an information inquiry to the RA Ministry of Defence regarding the pre-conscription preparatory measures, implementation of pre-conscription and conscription-age persons’ medical examination, conditions of their protection against the virus and safety in the conditions of the state of emergency declared by the RA Government’s decision of 16 March 2020 in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

On 9 April 2020, the RA MoD informed in the response letter that since 1 March 2020, the work of the medical commission conducting medical check-ups and examinations of citizens - for the citizens’ military enlistment and summer 2020 call-up preparatory work - had stopped, taking into account the measures taken to fight and prevent Covid-19. 

 

At the same time, RA MoD informed that all the RA MoD conscription and mobilization service subdivisions had been instructed to notify conscripts on the phone about the date and time scheduled for them to appear in outpatient-polyclinic institutions to undergo examinations. It was also added in the response letter that the RA MoD relevant subdivisions, according to the need stemming from their functions, are provided with the appropriate protective equipment.  

 

Nevertheless, when the call-up restarted, a number of cases were recorded when preventive measures were not taken, queues were formed during the medical examinations of conscripts, conscripts were without protective equipment in military commissariats, and there were up to 10 and even more persons in the doctor’s room at a time. 

 

Besides, as we received alarms that before the state of emergency was declared, medical examination of citizens - referred to hospitals in order to join the contract military service - had stopped, we also applied to clarify how their medical examination was conducted.

 

As stated in the RA MoD’s same letter, military medical institutions (hospitals) were forbidden from serving citizens with the view to preventing the penetration of Covid-19 in the Armed Forces staff.:  

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