The National Citizens' Initiative
75 Yerznkian Street
Yerevan 375033, Armenia
Tel: (+374 - 1) 27.16.00, 27.00.03
Fax: (+374 - 1) 52.48.46
E-mail: [email protected]

May 20, 2004

National Citizens' Initiative Examines "Army and Society"

Yerevan - The National Citizens' Initiative (NCI) convened today a
policy discussion on "Army and Society" to address the challenges
which the Armenian public faces in the military sphere and to
search for optimal solutions to the problems in army-society
interrelations. Public alienation, draft evasion, issues of law
and justice in the armed forces, and the roles of political forces,
civil society, and the intelligentsia in strengthening the army were
in the focus of the day's deliberations.

Raffi Hovannisian, founder of NCI and the Armenian Center for National
and International Studies (ACNIS), greeted the capacity audience with
opening remarks. "We trust that today's multidisciplinary discussion
will help define contemporary army-related challenges, ascertain the
level of military-society relations, and offer effective solutions,
all with the expectation of holding a broader conference together
with the Defense Ministry in the near future," Hovannisian said.

During the first session Lieutenant Colonel Sedrak Sedrakian, chief
of the Defense Ministry's legal department, delivered a paper on "The
Armenian Armed Forces Today: Achievements, Challenges, and Relevant
Legislation." The armed forces' strong legislative foundations
are accompanied both by reinforcement of legal requirements and by
expansion of rights and privileges, he maintained. "The legislative
field for the armed forces already is established in Armenia and has
a dynamic character, hence enabling development and adoption of a
comprehensive legislative

Colonel Vardan Avetisian, chief of the Defense Ministry's educational
department, addressed "The Principles of Legality and Justice: A
Look at Interpersonal Relations among Soldiers and Officers." "The
restrictions and stringent enforcement mechanisms currently being
applied in the army are aimed at fostering high military readiness
and every individual's personal responsibility toward his military
service. "The public cannot treat the army as a stepchild, because
justice and legality are just as important in the service as in
society," Avetisian said.

Avetik Ishkhanian, chairman of the Armenian Helsinki Committee,
concluded the session with a paper on "Civil Society-Armed Forces
Relations" based on his own investigations. "Crimes committed in the
army, violations of soldiers' rights, and other breaches presently are
considered a taboo. The homicides and other crimes we occasionally hear
about result mainly from demands outside of regulations," asserted
the human rights advocate, opining that the army should be fully
apoliticized and gradually transform into a professional system.

Reflecting on audience questions that sparked particular interest,
the speakers noted the measures required to rule out the custom of
"dedovshchina" widely inherited from the Soviet period, to prevent
provenance- triggered confrontations among soldiers, to continue
exercise of postponed enlistment entitlements for those in higher
academic courses, to regulate specific manifestations of various sects,
and to enhance the patriotic education of the youth.

The second session was completely devoted to exchanges of views and
policy recommendations among the public figures and policy specialists
in attendance. Noteworthy were contributions by General Arkadiy
Ter-Tadevosian, chairman of the Armenian Defense-Sport Association;
Colonel Gegham Haroutiunian, political council member of the Republic
party; Tamar Gevorgian of the United Labor Party; Vahagn Gevorgian,
expert of the Commission on Defense, National Security, and Internal
Affairs of the Armenian parliament; law professor Hrair Tovmasian;
Hrant Khachatrian of the Constitutional Law Union; former minister
of state Hrach Hakobian; Vardan Khachatrian, theology professor
at Yerevan State University; Hovhannes Hovhannisian of the Liberal
Progressive Party; Davit Petrosian of the Noyan Tapan News agency;
academician Rafael Ghazarian of the Armenian Intellectuals' Forum;
Petros Makeyan of the Democratic Fatherland party; Greta Mirzoyan of
the "Soldier's Mother" NGO; former defense minister Vazgen Manukian;
and many others. The majority of interventions concentrated on ensuring
the rule of law in the army, achieving higher levels of military
efficacy in the armed forces, pursuing the imperative of patriotic
upbringing, and realizing the public's potential to these ends.

ACNIS analyst Hovsep Khurshudian closed the seminar with summary
remarks. "It is evident that today's deliberations have given one
further opportunity for relevant high-ranking officials and public
representatives together to refocus on the army's problems and its
relations with society, and once more to be convinced that these
issues need deeper examination."

The National Citizens' Initiative is a public non-profit association
founded in 2001 by former foreign minister Raffi K. Hovannisian,
his colleagues, and fellow citizens with the purpose of realizing
the rule of law and overall improvements in the state of the state,
society, and public institutions. The National Citizens' Initiative
is guided by a Coordinating Council, which includes individual
citizens and representatives of various public, scientific,
and educational establishments. Five commissions on Law and State
Administration, Socioeconomic Issues, Foreign Policy, Spiritual and
Cultural Challenges, and the Youth constitute the vehicles for the
Initiative's work and outreach.

For further information, please call (3741) 27-16-00 or 27-00-03;
fax (3741) 52-48-46; e-mail [email protected]; or visit