“The Ministry of Defence of Armenia strongly condemns preparation and deliberate dissemination of such materials aimed at discrediting and diminishing the reputation of the armed forces of Armenia.”
Speaking before the parliament, Minister of Defence Seyran Ohanyan called the video a “disinformation”. “It’s a disinformation about our army, and I do not believe what was captured on that video has really taken place”, he said. Some pseudo-patriotic circles immediately pointed fingers towards the ‘enemy side’.
However... Only hours after the Minister’s statement, sadistic officer was identified and detained, and we received an official confirmation of the authenticity of the video.
In its latest statement, “the Armenian Defense Ministry officially confirmed on Wednesday the identity of an army officer who was arrested last week for abusing his soldiers and is now facing up to five years in prison.”
The arrest followed the circulation of an amateur Youtube video that shows a uniform-clad man hitting and humiliating two army conscripts during what looks like a picnic. The footage caused public outrage, prompting the Armenian military to order an inquiry.I’d like to re-cite this comment made under my initial post by Ara Manoogian, who re-uploaded the video on YouTube (after it was removed) and consequently faced threats of violence and demands to remove the video:
The Defense Ministry initially questioned its veracity and said those who posted it on the Internet are keen to “discredit” the Armed Forces. Subsequent media reports said military investigators tracked down the officer shown in the clip. He was identified as Major Sasun Galstian, deputy commander of an army unit deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In a written statement, the ministry said Galstian was arrested and formally charged last Friday under an article of the Criminal Code dealing with abuse of power committed by servicemen. It carries between two and five years’ imprisonment.
The ministry statement also identified the two soldiers allegedly mistreated by Galstian, saying that they both will be examined by forensic medics. It said the video was shot in July on a mobile phone belonging to another serviceman, in the presence of his father and brother.
"I not only think we have a problems with violence in the army, but we have a bigger problem with people willing to face the realities that exist in our nation today, thus presumably an unwillingness to face them head on and deal with them."
What is the most important and key here is to eradicate and fight the root cause of the problem. We all know very well, without the need of videos to prove, that bullying and hazing do exist and widespread in the armed forces and need urgent intervention. Emerging videos or reports simply highlight this disturbing reality and should be taken as a call for actions. Status quo is a violation of human rights of servicemen and consequently a real threat to the national security of Armenia.
While current developments may be considered as a victory for online activists who exposed and distributed the video in the first place, this will only become a real victory for all of us, including MoD, if Armenian officials face up the widespread problems of corruption and abuse in the army and initiate radical reforms to ensure that similar displays of sadism as well as “suicides” and non combat deaths are prevented and dealt with. In the world of Internet, cover up is an outdated concept.