Hazardous Duty: Another conscript dies at the hands of a “comrade”

Hazardous Duty: Another conscript dies at the hands of a “comrade”
March 19, 2004

By Zhanna Alexanyan ArmeniaNow reporter
Another member of the Armenian army has died from wounds inflicted by a
fellow soldier.
The soldier is memorialized in his village home.

Eighteen year old Artur Grigoryan is the latest casualty of
soldier-against-soldier violence. Armenian soldiers kill each other at an
average of nearly one per week.

Private Grigoryan,
who was
conscripted last November, three days after his 18 th birthday, died March 2
at the Erebuni Medical Center from wounds inflicted by an officer.

Family and witnesses say that Lieutenant Colonel Hovaness Yeritsyan beat
Griogoryan with his fists, then struck his head against a metal bar and an
iron gate. The incident took place February 17 and Grigoryan died two weeks
later of complications resulting from wounds.

An officer who says he witnessed the incident told Grigoryan’s family that
Yeritsyan beat the soldier for smoking and for loud laughter.

According to relatives, friends and acquaintances of Grigoryan, the
following took place:

A group of soldiers was standing in the yard of the Unit 5165, a detachment
of the National Security Ministry, stationed in Yerevan. When the group saw
the Lieutenant Colonel approach, it dispersed. Grigoryan and a friend went
and stood behind a truck.

“What are you doing, playing cat and mouse?”, Yeritsyan allegedly said and
began striking Grigoryan.

According to Grigoryan’s 25-year old brother, Ashot: “He hit Artur’s face
several times and his beret flew off. When Artur tried to bend down to pick
up his beret the officer hit a heavy blow on my brother’s head while he was
bent over. Then he grabbed his collar and hit his head on a metal bar three
times. But it was not enough for him. He also violently hit Artur’s head on
an iron gate two times.”

Artur Grigoryan had attended Ashot’s wedding two days before the incident,
and as Ashot drove him back to his post, he says the younger Grigoryan had
no complaints about his army experience.

“My brother was satisfied with his military service. He used to say
everything was normal,” says Ashot.

Anahit Grigoryan has lost a husband, a daughter and, now, a son.
Yeritsyan has been put under military detention, charged with “excess of
official power” and a criminal investigation could lead to charges for which
a guilty verdict is three to eight years in prison.

Upon being taken into the army, Grigoryan was assigned to a special forces
unit, primarily because of his size: 1.85 centimeters (about 6 feet, 1 inch)
and weight was 98 kilograms (about 216 pounds).

Though he complained of headaches, Grigoryan continued on duty for a week,
until he passed out on February 24 and was taken to hospital and two days
later moved to the neuro-psychiatric department. It was not until the next
day that his family learned that Givorgyan was in hospital, told that he had
an infection.

“They were hiding the truth from us until the very end. First they said he
had suffered an epileptic seizure, then they said he had a swelling in his
head and then their final diagnosis was infection,” says his mother, Anahit.
“They tried to prove that my child had been sick before being called up for
military service but my son was very healthy. I never saw him sick since he
was a child.”

Relatives say that they were not informed of the severity of Grigoryan’s
condition. They say they were denied frequent visits, always with the excuse
that Grigoryan was sleeping. But Grigoryan had relatives in the same unit,
who told the family of what had happened and Grigoryan later confirmed their

“If we knew everything was so serious we would have invited a medical
consensus from other specialists. Maybe they would have saved my child’s
life. We didn’t realize that they were lying to us,” the mother says. “For
hushing up the affair and set our minds at rest they made an operation. But
the operation was made on the wrong part of the head, not on the part where
blows were hit.”

According to forensic pathologist Shota Vardanyan, an autopsy revealed that
the soldier died as a result of trauma to the brain.

“Artur confirmed in Erebuni hospital that (Yeritsyan) beat him and hit his
head on a metal bar,” Anahit says. “I said, ‘Artur-jan, is it true? Has
something like that happened to you?’ And he said, ‘ma-jan, yes, it is
true.’ But I couldn’t imagine this could happen as a result of the blow.”

In fact, Vardanyan says that if Grigoryan had remained still in the days
after the incident, the injury probably would not have been fatal.

A few days ago an officer from the unit visited the boys home, requesting
medical documents and asking questions about the incident. Family members
fear that military prosecutors will manipulate evidence to conclude that
Grigoryan’s death was not a result of the beating.

His school director (left center) says Artur “never used his strength
against weak people”.
According to the Minister of Defense, last year 40 Armenian soldiers were
killed by other Armenian soldiers. (The Military Prosecutor’s Office put the
number at 48.) A total of 116 murders occurred throughout the republic,
meaning that about one-third of all homicides occurred in the army.

If cases are prosecuted, verdicts typically find in favor of the army,
leading loved ones suspicious of military justice and others fearful of the
day when their sons will have to face conscription.

Anahit Grigoryan compared her son’s death to the recent murder of an
Armenian army officer in Budapest by an Azerbaijani military officer.

“In Hungary, an Armenian officer was murdered by an enemy and the enemy was
judged, political opinions were expressed. But here, in this case, an
Armenian officer killed an Armenian soldier, who will judge him? He must be
regarded as a betrayer to his homeland,” says the victim’s mother.

The Grigoryans, a family of machine operators, is from the village of Melik
, about 45 miles northwest of Yerevan . The father died in an automobile
accident in 1993 and a teenage daughter died of a disease. Residents of
Melik say Artur and Ashot Grigoryan had been family breadwinners since Artur
was 14.

Director of Melik village school Artur Ghevondyan, described his former
student as “a boy who lived in hard social conditions and lost his father,
had always been depressed. He was never active. He was very strong but he
never used his strength against weak people. ”

Ghevondyan is proud that, despite widespread concern among parents about
sending their sons being conscripted, there has never been a draft-dodger
from Melik.

“We teach our children that this is our country and our statehood and we
encourage them to go and serve in the army,” he says. “Soon the spring draft
starts. With what heart do you now think we are going to send our boys to
the army?”

Copyright ArmeniaNow 2002-2003. All rights reserved.
Articles may be reproduced, provided ArmeniaNow is cited as the source.