In Russia, the rights of soldiers serving their first year are constantly violated – they experience malnutrition and bad medical treatment, Human Rights Watch NGO stated in its report published on November 15.
"An average Russian soldier is sick and hungry", says Rachel Denber, interim executive director for Human Rights Watch department for Europe and Central Asia. "However, Russian legal system does not have means of solving this problem. Moreover, it does not see this problem at all".
On November 17, the UN Committee for economic, social and cultural rights examined if Russia observes the international pact which includes the right for feeding and high level of health care.
The issue of malnutrition in the Russian Army is covered in the 40-page document: "Sick Army: the Russian Army Malnutrition and Lack of Health Care Problems".
Feeding the men called up for military service is below the norms set by the Army itself which say that soldiers are supposed to have meat and green vegetables. First year soldiers receive food of low quality which are often spoiled or contain parasites.
The problem of young soldiers being intimidated can be seen at the soldiers' canteen: soldiers serving more than one year deprive the freshmen of the best food and make them eat in a hurry, not letting to feed themselves.
Being intimidated, young soldiers do not go to the doctor because of minor illnesses because it can cause conflicts with older soldiers. There are cases when young soldiers were beaten and harassed after going to the doctor. In some cases young soldiers' appeal for medical assistance is rejected by their commanders and even health care workers.
Malnutrition and lack of care about young soldiers' health often cause tragedies. In 2001 19-year-old soldier from Novokuznetsk Vyacheslav Turov after serving 3.5 months died of complications from two side lung inflammation. Shortly before his death the young soldier wrote his parents that he lost 7 kilograms of his weight because of malnutrition in several weeks. Malnutrition was called one of the causes of his death in the medical statement.
In military out-patients departments and even in the Army hospitals younger oldies are often harassed by the older ones. A case of young soldier suicide has been registered: the soldier was harassed for the whole night.
Because of all this, Human Rights Watch offers to establish the position of the person authorized for the human rights violation in the Russian Army. This was the initiative of Anna Heistat, director of the NGO Moscow office.
She said the report cited above cannot be called scientific because the number of the interviewed soldiers is small in comparison with the Russian Army scale. "We interviewed several hundred solders who were demobilized from 50 military units because of health problems. We understand that the number of the cases we have in our database does not allow us to define the exact percentage of them." She said Human Rights Watch researched this problem from 1999 to 2002.
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