In the frame of civil oversight of the Armed Forces, as established in Article 14 of the RA Constitution, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor (hereinafter referred to as “the Organization”), attaching importance to human rights protection in the Armed Forces, and formation of effective mechanisms of civil oversight of the Armed Forces, conducts monitoring of human rights violations in the Armed Forces, provides legal support to persons subject to military enlistment, conscripts, servicemen, cadets, those registered in the reserve, citizens who did not join military service by violating the established procedure, compulsory-term and contractual servicemen discharged or early discharged from military service, officers, including those discharged from military service, relatives of missing servicemen and killed servicemen, prisoners of war and their family members.
At the same time, with the purpose of contributing to the effective implementation of reforms in the Armed Forces, the Organization carries out analyses of human rights violations and various systemic issues in the Armed Forces and presents recommendations of legislative changes in the sphere.
The full report is available here, and below are some details from the report.
Addressing the situation of protection of human rights standards by the defense agency, law enforcement bodies and the judiciary in the context of call-ups, training gatherings, and organization of the military service, we hereby record the following issues:
With respect to the Conscription and Mobilization Service and Territorial Divisions
• The amount of money provided to conscripts for transport expenses incurred in order to undergo medical examinations is not enough to travel from regions to Yerevan.
• Employees of territorial divisions of the Conscription and Mobilization Service continue creating artificial obstacles for conscripts in terms of providing all the documents on their health state, and provide only some of them.
• Citizens are not notified properly, while according to part 1 of Article 20 of the RA Law on “Military Service and Servicemen’s Status”, in order to ensure a citizen’s presence at the call-up for compulsory military service, the relevant military commissariat notifies the citizen, by paper or electronically, regarding their obligation to go to the military commissariat (territorial division of Conscription and Mobilization Service), specifying the time period within which the citizen is to go to the commissariat. Instead, the notification paper is handed either to other persons at home, or the notification is done by a phone call, sometimes not to the conscript directly.
• The reservists called up for training gatherings are also notified about their obligation to go to the territorial division of Conscription and Mobilization Service by phone.
• The RA MoD Conscription and Mobilization Service divisions do not have the documents submitted previously by reservists regarding their health.
• Reservists who participated in three-month training gatherings over the last year are called to the RA MoD Conscription and Mobilization Service to participate in training gatherings.
• Persons registered in the reserve are notified about participating in training gatherings that have not been announced yet.
• Territorial divisions of Conscription and Mobilization Service take military books of citizens and do not give them back for a long time without valid reasons.
• In order to receive the status of persons who participated in the 44-day war activities, they are obliged to present the relevant documents.
• Relevant notes are not made in the military books of participants of the 44-day war regarding their participation.
• Territorial divisions of the Conscription and Mobilization Service provide documents regarding servicemen returned from captivity and then early released, including military books, more than 6 months later.
With respect to medical commissions of the Conscription and Mobilization Service
• Sometimes, there are technical shortcomings (incomplete notes) in the referrals provided by commissions to conscripts in order to undergo medical examinations, and for this reason, medical institutions refuse to subject conscripts to medical examinations and they have to return, get another referral and again go to Yerevan.
• Serious health problems of conscripts are ignored, and when making a decision on fitness for military service, commissions take into account other less manifested health problems, and the decision made based on this does not correspond to the conscript’s health state.
• In the frame of state-provided free medical aid, sometimes less effective free treatment is offered.
• Conscripts are referred to the medical institutions, where the doctor involved in the medical commission of the call-up works.
• Conscripts are not provided with the acts and final conclusions on their health examinations.
• Results of the examinations performed at the conscript’s own initiative are taken into account at their discretion.
• In case of getting a deferral based on certain health problems, medical examination of conscripts is done incompletely during the next call-up, and only with respect to the specified health problems, thus newly-emerged health problems are not identified, which can be grounds for recognizing them fit for military service later.
• Documents on the examination of conscripts’ health state do not reflect their true health state.
• Not all the complaints of conscripts and citizens registered in the reserve who are summoned for training gatherings are recorded by commissions.
• Citizens registered in the reserve are not subjected to medical check-ups and expert examinations in the volume prescribed by law, moreover, in response to citizens’ complaints, they require to present conclusions of medical examinations performed with their own means, which can be problematic, especially for socially vulnerable persons.
• The commissions conduct medical examination of reservists only verbally, i.e., through questions and answers.
• The RA MoD Conscription and Mobilization territorial divisions provide reservists with a written instruction to undergo medical examinations, and they call on reservists to undergo medical examinations as soon as possible, without taking into account the condition that the citizen is to be involved in a training gathering about six months later, in case of which their health state can change, especially in case of some seasonal diseases.
With respect to the Central Medical Commission
• Conclusion of the Central Medical Commission often does not correspond to the diagnoses confirmed by acts on conscripts’ health state. In case of the same health problem, during two different call-ups conscripts are examined under two essentially different Articles, and as a result, a conscript with an illness incompatible with military service is recognized fit for military service.
• The conscript is not referred to quality and, therefore, expensive medical examination, as a result of which the conscript is recognized fit for military service, and it is only based on the results of examinations performed at the conscript's initiative that the Central Medical Commission has to change its decision by recognizing the conscript unfit for military service.
• Conscripts who were previously granted a deferral for treatment purposes are recognized fit or fit with limitations for military service during the next call-up without having undergone an effective treatment.
• In case of two different diagnoses issued as a result of medical examinations, the conscript is not referred to a checking medical examination, and sometimes, the results of medical examinations the conscript underwent at his own initiative are not taken into account, and the CMC makes a final decision without confirming or refuting them.
• Servicemen’s serious health problems are ignored, while in case of contradicting data recorded as a result of medical examinations, CMC makes a decision based on the results according to which the conscript is considered fit for military service.
With respect to medical institutions of the RA Ministry of Health
• Medical institutions continue not providing copies of conclusions issued in acts of conscripts’ health state examination and medical expert examination. In 2022, the Organization recommended that medical organizations be obliged to provide information requested by a person on his health state free of charge and in a written form within a maximum of 5 days (based on the time restriction of the call-up). The RA MoD accepted the recommendation with certain changes. In particular, an amendment was made to the RA Government’s decision N 405-N of 12 April 2018, establishing that a citizen can also have access to the data on his health state through e-health ARMED system. Nonetheless, the problem is not solved yet, since medical institutions do not have an obligation to provide a person with the requested information on his health.
• When conducting medical examinations, medical institutions not always prioritize conscripts, as a result of which, they have to wait in queues together with civilians, despite the condition that according to Article 17 of the RA Law on “Military service and the status of servicemen”, “When enlisting citizens for military service, during compulsory military service call-up, including mobilization call-up, involving citizens in contractual military service and training gathering, check-up and medical expert examination of their health state is conducted. For cases specified in this part, citizens’ check-up, expert examination and treatment is performed in a priority order and free of charge, in the frame of state-guaranteed medical aid and service”.
• Some private medical institutions continue manifesting differentiated approach towards conscription-age persons, refusing to subject them to medical examinations without taking into account the condition that the person appeared to undergo an examination at his own initiative, with his financial means.
• Compulsory-term servicemen undergoing medical examinations in military medical institutions are often subjected to medical workers’ rude and contemptuous attitude. They prescribe medication without specifying the name of the medication or explaining the aim of their use to servicemen, arguing that they do not need to know it, and urging them to simply take the prescribed medication.
With respect to the Government/Ministry of Defense
• Amendments and addenda regarding exempting persons from participation in training gatherings, which are currently in the circulation and approval phase according to the RA MoD, have not been adopted yet, and currently, persons who are not supposed to leave even for a short period based on their family conditions are still called for training gatherings.
• Currently, the Government is trying to regulate not only issues related to the working position of persons called for training gatherings, but also maintenance of their salary. However, it is not clear how the issue of salary will be regulated in case of reservists who are private entrepreneurs, when during their absence, they will not have income, which will lead to deterioration of their and their family’s financial situation, and when they have greater monthly income than established in the RA Government’s decision of 18 October 2018 on “Establishing the procedure for organizing measures in the frame of preparation of the reserve”, as the official rate for the designated military position.
• Servicemen who have returned from captivity are again involved in military service without comprehensive examination of health state, provision of effective psychological support and rehabilitation.
• Relatives of missing persons are often told that in case of applying to court in order to recognize a person missing, search operations will not be implemented, which is why families avoid applying to court.
• Interdepartmental cooperation is ineffective in cases when, for example, the Government makes a decision to announce training gatherings, which enters into force the next day, while territorial divisions of conscription and mobilization services notify citizens to appear in the division the next day and join the military service, without taking into account the 20-day timeframe for joining training gatherings as established by law.
• While the term “military commissariat” was replaced with “Territorial division of conscription and mobilization service”, the necessary changes have still not been made in some legal acts.
• The RA Ministry of Defense manifests a high level of confidentiality without giving any justification for not providing the information.
• In cases of conscripts and compulsory-term and contract servicemen, when they do not agree with decisions on recognizing them fit for military service of fit for military service with limitations, military service-related decisions, actions or inaction during military service, complaints are also filed with the Head of the General Staff of the RA Armed Forces or the head of the relevant division.
In nearly all cases, the competent administrative body rejects the Organization’s complaint, finding grounded the legality of the inferior administrative body’s administration. During the administrative proceedings initiated based on the administrative complaint, the factual and legal grounds of the complaint do not become a subject of discussion, which becomes grounds for later appealing the decision, action or inaction in court. The conduct of the RA Ministry of Defense has not undergone any positive change with respect to improper investigation into appeals of decisions, actions or inaction during call-ups and military service, despite the condition that the Organization has been addressing the mentioned issue since 2016.
With respect to the RA Ministry of Health Scientific-Practical Center of Forensic Medicine SNCO and investigative bodies
• When DNA matches and missing persons are transferred to the list of killed servicemen, their relatives are not provided with a copy of the conclusion of forensic medical examination, as a result of which they cannot apply to the Foundation for Servicemen’s Insurance in order to receive financial support.
• The remains of missing persons provided to their relatives do not correspond to the body structure of the servicemen.
With respect to the Investigative Committee/garrison investigative bodies
• The body conducting proceedings of cases where conscripts do not agree with conclusions on recognizing them fit for military service and appeal those decisions to the superior body and court instances continues not taking into account the reasons and justifications for not joining military service and does not make these a subject to properly investigate into. This condition is also not taken into account during judicial examination of criminal cases. In the frame of criminal cases initiated against conscripts, investigative bodies continue to be the body ensuring conscription.
• Based on the decision of the body conducting the proceedings, during strategic litigations related to protection of fundamental human rights, criminal case proceedings are suspended based on the condition that the person subject to criminal liability is unidentified. This inadmissible practice adopted by the body conducting proceedings leads to violation of fundamental human rights. By suspending criminal case proceedings, the body conducting the proceedings uses national legislation norms and does not conduct effective investigation.
• Criminal cases, especially when related to crimes of military service, are investigated for very long periods, and the principle of investigating a case within reasonable terms is not observed.
• The body conducting preliminary investigation into cases of missing servicemen does not give a procedural status to the victim’s legal successors for ungrounded and unclear reasons for a long time during the investigation of the case, and does not involve them in the investigation. Relatives of missing servicemen receive the status of a victim and get involved in the case proceedings after the Organization’s advocates are involved and the relevant petitions are made.
With respect to the RA General Jurisdiction Courts of First Instance
• Judicial cases are not examined within reasonable terms.
With respect to the RA Administrative Court
• Again, judicial cases are not examined within reasonable terms.