YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The office of Armenia’s ombudsman has published a study revealing “essential shortcomings” in Armenia’s armed forces. The study conducted by the “Tolerance Center” NGO and the Yerevan office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was presented by Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian on Thursday.
“Armed forces in all countries are the mirror of society and the problems of society are evident in the army in a concentrated form,” Harutiunian said, stressing that the study was conducted with the assistance of the Ministry of Defense, which, according to him, is “progress in terms of transparency.”
“Of course, this does not mean that we should not talk about the problems that exist,” said the ombudsman, adding that legal, psychological, socio-economic and educational grounds of problems in the armed forces have been explored.
Grzegorz Michalski, the Politico-Military Officer at the OSCE Office in Yerevan, called for continued joint work on raising the level of transparency and human rights protection in the armed forces.
The study that commenced seven months ago was conducted in randomly selected seven military units located in Yerevan and adjacent provinces. Anonymous surveys were conducted among officers and privates at these units and focused on psychological and legal aspects of military service.
“The remarkable observation related to human rights in the armed forces is that among both commanders and soldiers there is a low level of legal awareness,” said the Ombudsman’s military adviser Rustam Makhmudian.
According to the survey, conscripts perceive service as “passing two years somehow” or more often as “an interruption of life’s normal course.”
Conversations with commanders and soldiers as well as observations and testing led the research team to conclude that the lack of motivation among soldiers is related to several factors, namely their lacking comprehensive information on the course of service, the diminished significance of military service as a public value, the fact that privileges and opportunities for professional advancement in a military career are not obvious to young men, as a result of which they do not perceive their military service as a prestigious occupation.
The research team registered the presence of a widespread practice of relations within the army that break the subordination rules.
“Studies have shown that the main factor in the matter of forming the moral-psychological atmosphere in the army is the personality of the officer, the integrity of his professional, educational and personal qualities,” said psychologist Sona Manusian from the Tolerance Center.
As a mechanism to realize their proposals made following the study, its authors suggested that the Ombudsman’s Office and the Ministry of Defense sign a memorandum of understanding.