Armenia: Video Alleges Army Abuse

September 11, 2010

My fellow Facebookians from ex-Soviet Armenia are sharing a disturbing YouTube video (and furious reactions) – posted today and likely recorded secretly – which shows a shirtless man aggressively and repeatedly slapping a uniformed young man, pulling his ear and seemingly instructing him to “bring water” in an (albeit hard to understand) Armenian dialect before abusing another serviceman.

While I have no confirmation of the authenticity of the video, originally posted on YouTube by an opposition activist (later reposted by others after the original video was removed – see update below), it does appear genuine and is consistent with reports of human rights abuses in Armenia’s army (generally perpetrated by career officers against drafted soldiers) which has resulted in a number of suicides and killings.

In one week alone past summer, according to Radio Free Europe, “[s]ix Armenian army servicemen reportedly were shot dead… in two separate non-combat incidents highlighting lingering abuse and other serious problems within the country’s armed forces.”

Armenia’s government must investigate abuse in the army and institute drastic improvements. When young men are required to serve 2 years in the army, they must at least come out of service healthy and alive.

SEP 12, 2010 UPDATE: YouTube has removed the original video (although it has not removed other versions of it; in the meantime a blogger has reposted it) and Armenia’s Ministry of Defense has issued a statement (in Armenian) confirming that the men depicted in the video are wearing uniforms of the Armenian army. While the press release says the army will investigate the alleged abuse, it also “strictly condemns the preparation and intentional distribution of the material [which attempts] to discredit Armenia’s armed forces.”