YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Some 50 parents of Armenian soldiers who died in dubious circumstances while doing their military service gathered in front of the government headquarters in Yerevan to demand the punishment of those who they say killed their sons. The protesters accused law-enforcement structures in the Armenian military of refusing to thoroughly investigate the numerous death cases. Some of the parents–who reject official claims that their sons committed suicide–told RFE/RL that the real culprits are still at large–enjoying protection by top brass of the army.
The Armenian Helsinki Committee–a human rights group dealing with the problem–earlier put the non-combat death toll in the Armenian military in 1997 at about 300–but some observers consider this figure exaggerated.
Ruben Martirosian of the Committee to Protect Soldiers–representing parents of the dead soldiers–told RFE/RL that the murder rate has shown no signs of decreasing over the first three months of this year. He said he had met with a government official who asked him to hand over case files on all suspicious deaths of servicemen for examination.