- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
March 19, 2004

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

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

Private Artur Grigoryan, 18, is the latest casualty of soldier-against-soldier violence.

Grigoryan, who was
conscripted last November, 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 account.

“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.”

Family members say that a forensic specialist told them that 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.”

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".

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?”

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