Military Hazing Continues to be Big, Underreported Problem
Hazing of young military conscripts continues to be a big problem in the Caucasus and Central Asia, according to the U.S. State Department, though reporting of the problem appears to vary widely from country to country.
The State Department's annual human rights report addresses a whole host of human rights issues, one of them being hazing/abuse in the military. According to the report, Armenia had 176 military personnel convicted of hazing in 2010, in Kazakhstan 162 service members were charged with hazing, while in Kyrgyzstan only one such case was reported. Exact numbers weren't provided for other countries, which suggests in part that officials in Armenia and Kazakhstan might be relatively upfront and transparent about their hazing issues than the other countries (Kyrgyzstan's number was provided by an NGO).
Though in some cases, the State Department did not report on military hazing when information did appear easily available. EurasiaNet, for example, has reported on hazing in Azerbaijan's military, including official statistics on hazing. There has also been reporting on hazing in the militaries in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. But the State Department barely mentions the issue of hazing in those countries, and doesn't even bring up the subject in its section on Georgia.
Anyway, some of the key excepts from the report below.
Within the armed forces, the impunity and lack of accountability of commanders, rampant corruption, and substandard living conditions continued to contribute to mistreatment and noncombat injuries. Although no reliable statistics on the prevalence of military hazing were available, soldiers reported to human rights NGOs that the abuse continued. Soldiers' families claimed that corrupt officials controlled military units, while human rights monitors and the ombudsman reported that soldiers with serious disqualifying health conditions were conscripted into military service. According to official information, during the year 176 military personnel were convicted of hazing and related violations and 12 more cases were under trial at year's end.
The military Prosecutor's Office arrested and summoned to the court five members of the military regarding crimes committed on January 28, including taking bribes; insulting; causing injuries or torture of a military man; and abuse of authority, excess, or negligence. The court hearing continued at year's end.
On June 12, three cadets of the High Military Navy School beat fellow cadet Royal Musayev. Musayev was hospitalized. Ombudswoman for Human Rights Elmira Sulevmanova appealed to both the deputy prosecutor general and the military prosecutor to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. Neither had initiated an investigation by year's end.
Military hazing led to deaths, suicides, and serious injuries. The government reported 93 incidents of nonlethal military hazing during the year. The government did not publish statistics on the number of deaths linked to hazing during the year. The number of suicides in the army did not significantly change from the previous year. Authorities reported 17 suicides; there were 16 in 2009....
The government charged 162 military service members with crimes related to military hazing and abuse of power during the year, compared with 167 in 2009.
The government investigated some allegations of conscript hazing and prosecuted soldiers who engaged in this abuse, forwarding 32 hazing cases to the courts. The Ministry of Defense continued unannounced inspections and required systematic reports from senior officers about hazing in their units.
The NGO Committee of Soldiers' Mothers reported one registered case of military hazing during the year, which involved physical abuse by three noncommissioned officers. Military authorities provided medical treatment to the victim. One of the perpetrators was sentenced to two years in prison, and the others received suspended sentences of one year.
In July a military conscript, Anvarjon Muhammadjonov, died while serving with his unit. The military reported that he died of exposure to electricity, but his body allegedly showed signs of being beaten.
Members of the military reported, however, that hazing of conscripts occurred widely and involved violations of human dignity and morale including brutality, verbal abuse, and rape. These incidents often resulted in physical injury and psychological damage to conscripts. The hazing reportedly was often based on ethnic, geographic, or tribal affiliation, and soldiers from minority tribes reportedly were hazed more than others, as were conscripts from Lebap and Dashoguz provinces.
In 2009 a source from the Ashgabat Central Directorate for Military Health reported that military death statistics and suicides were significantly higher in 2008 as compared with other years, despite a reduction in the length of compulsory service for conscripts. Reportedly, the majority of these deaths were related to military hazing. Officers usually concealed hazing incidents. A military source reported that officers at a unit in Ashgabat hid the suicide note of a conscript who hanged himself because it revealed he had been beaten and raped during hazing.