Non-combatant soldier deaths in Azerbaijan

Non-combatant deaths two times greater than deaths in combat situations

At the Fuzuli Region Military Court a judicial investigation is underway over the death of the soldier Parviz Pashayev. Pashayev’s family and friends, as well as a number of soldiers who served with him at the same military base, have been questioned.

Parviz Pashayev’s father, Pasha Pashayev, told Meydan TV that he believes court testimony has been falsified. According to him, the statements given during the initial investigation differ from the testimony given in court.

“At the initial questioning, witnesses said that my son slipped and fell while crossing a pipe over the Mil-Mughan canal, but in court they said that he dove into the water to swim,” Pashayev said. “The soldiers couldn’t say which direction the canal flows or who was standing where at the time of the incident. The chief lieutenant said that he was the duty officer at the military base [on that day] and he wasn’t present when the incident occurred.”

The Military Prosecutor’s Office released a statement saying that on 30 July 2016 Parviz Pashayev fell into the Mil-Mughan canal and drowned, and that corporal Ramin Bayramov had been detained in connection with Pashayev’s death. The corporal was charged with negligence in his service in a position of authority.

Pasha Pashayev says that Parviz spent his child on by the sea. He doesn’t believe that his son died by drowning: “He grew up in Buzovna on the seashore, he could swim. If he had drowned water should have come out of his lungs. But but when the body was examined blood clots were found in the chest and the lungs. On his neck there were signs of strangling, and on his hands and elbows there were wounds. But in the forensic report they wrote that my son died by drowning.” The soldier’s father claims that his son was fatally beaten and thrown in the canal: “The Military Prosecutor’s Office should open a criminal case for premeditated murder. They accused the corporal of mere negligence, but there was a death here.” But the Military Prosecutor’s Office stated that they found no evidence of murder in the course of their investigation.

Azerbaijani citizens are conscripted into fixed-term active military service four times a year – between the 1st and the 30th of the months of January, April, July and October, based on a document issued by a relevant executive body. Parviz Pashayev was sent to military service from Baku’s Khazar district in October 2015.

Fixed-term active military service is considered a mandatory duty in Azerbaijan. The “Law on military service and military duty” says that any man who is 18 years of age and fit for military service is to be conscripted for a period of 18 months. For citizens with higher education, the service period is 12 months. Individuals who have not done fixed-term active military service, do not have a right to deferment of their military service, are not exempt from conscription, and are under the age of 35, are conscripted for military service.

Parviz also was sent to the army after he turned 18. His death is not the only one recorded in the course of military service. A report that the Caspian Defense Studies Institute released after monitoring the mass media and social networking websites says the Azerbaijani army lost 1,044 soldiers in 2003-16. A total of 30 per cent of the 1,044 deaths occurred in combat while 60 per cent occurred in non-combatant situations.

Non-combatant deaths:

24.7 per cent – mistreatment

21.6 per cent – suicide and negligence

18 per cent – car and airplane accidents

15 per cent – accidents

13.7 per cent – disease and poisoning

1.2 per cent – Operations conducted by the National Security Ministry

6 per cent – cause of death unknown

The first organized protests and public resistance against army deaths began in 2013. On January 7, 2013 the Defense Ministry had said that soldier Jeyhun Gubadov, conscripted into the army from Dashkasan District, had died from heart failure. However, the soldier’s parents did not accept that conclusion. Samira Gubadova, the mother of the late soldier, circulated photos of her son’s body with traces of torture on it.

Following the Defense Ministry statement, groups organized on social networking websites held a protest under the slogan “An end to soldier deaths!” on January 12 – five days after Jeyhun Gubadov died. The parents and friends of soldiers who had died in the army joined the protest. After the protest, the Defence Ministry released a statement that said that Jeyhun Gubadov had died as a result of a violation of discipline, not as a result of heart failure.

A second protest against soldier deaths was held on March 10, 2013. The protesters demanded army reform, a fair investigation into soldier deaths and punishment for those responsible for the deaths.

Seven months after the last protest, Col-Gen Safar Abiyev, who had served as minister of defense for 18 years, resigned. Internal Troops Commander Col-Gen Zakir Hasanov replaced Abiyev on the post of minister of defense on October 22. The replacement of the minister inspired expectations that a new order would be established in the army and deaths would not happen anymore.

Statistics available to the Caspian Defense Studies Institute shows that non-combatant deaths were at their lowest in 2005 (39% of total deaths) and at their highest in 2011 (86% of total deaths). Non-combatant deaths began to decline after 2011. Nevertheless, up until 2015, there were more non-combatant deaths than combatant deaths. Combatant deaths went up dramatically as a result of the April 2015 clashes.

Military expert Jasur Mammadov has commented on cases of soldiers killed by peers and high-ranking military officers. He believes that citizens should be drafted into the army not on a compulsory basis but on a contractual one: “It is necessary to improve living standards for military personnel, have educated personnel lead the army, and step up the public monitoring mechanism.”

The Azerbaijani government does not tolerate the idea of establishment of a mechanism for public monitoring of the army. The government has blocked all attempts made to this effect within the country’s boundaries. For example, in 2013, three members of NIDA Civic Movement, who were actively involved in organizing a protest against army deaths, were detained prior to the protest on charges of possession of narcotics and explosives. As a result of continued purges, eight members of NIDA were jailed.

Although most of the activists were released a few years later, Ilkin Rustamzadeh, who created a protest event on Facebook, is still in jail. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013.

Military expert Jasur Mammadov left Azerbaijan in 2014 because of pressure that was exerted on him. He had been summoned to the National Security Ministry three times and threatened there with the demand that he stop publicizing soldier death statistics. Mammadov currently works from Germany, where he had applied for political asylum.

The latest statement published by the Caspian Defense Studies Institute, which is led by Jasur Mammadov, says that 38 Azerbaijani soldiers died in the course of their army service in the past six months of 2017: 16 of those deaths occurred in combat and 22 in non-combat situations.

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