ARMENIA

Armenian army rocked by video abuse scandal

A few weeks ago, the video of a young Armenian soldier being beaten and manhandled by an officer emerged on the web. After initially dismissing the video as a fabrication, Armenian authorities were forced to open an investigation after a wave of public outrage was sparked by the footage.

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A few weeks ago, the video of a young Armenian soldier being beaten and manhandled by an officer emerged on the web. After initially dismissing the video as a fabrication, Armenian authorities were forced to open an investigation after a wave of public outrage was sparked by the footage.

Vidéo initially posted here.

"With the Internet, it has become impossible to keep this kind of incident under wraps"

Artmika (pseudonym) is an Armenian blogger. He contributed to the spread of the video on the Web.

This video was posted for the first time on YouTube on September 11, under the title “The real face of the Army”. It shows bullying and physical violence in the Armenian army. It was removed the following day but re-posted on DailyMotion, then kept disappearing and reappearing for several days.

"The video was first denied, then authentified "

When we first exposed the video, authorities began by saying that it was "fabricated" without even preliminary investigation. On September 13, the Ministry of Defence even released a statement “strongly condemning the preparation and deliberate dissemination of such materials aimed at discrediting and diminishing the reputation of the armed forces of Armenia”, a veiled threat to all those who posted the video on the Internet. But with the Internet, it has become impossible to keep this kind of incident under wraps for long. The ministry later announced that it was launching an investigation to “determine the authenticity of the video” and identify the individuals involved.

Just hours after the Minister’s statement, an officer was identified and detained, and we received an official confirmation of the authenticity of the video.

The scene occurred in July and was filmed by a soldier. The abusive officer has been identified as Major Sasun Galstian, deputy commander of an army unit deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh. He 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.

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 it, that bullying and hazing do exist and is 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 action. Status quo is a violation of human rights of servicemen and consequently a real threat to the national security of Armenia.

"A victory for online activists"

While current developments may be considered 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 the MoD, if Armenian officials face up to the widespread problems of corruption and abuse in the army. They need to initiate radical reforms to ensure that similar displays of sadism and non-combat deaths are prevented and dealt with. In the world of the Internet, a cover up is an outdated concept."