The General Staff has announced that commanders will be sentenced to prison terms of up to two years if they are found guilty of neglecting the mental health of their subordinates, Turkish media reported on Wednesday.
According to a report in the Taraf daily, a written directive has been issued by the General Staff to all military departments that says “commanders are responsible for soldiers' mental health as well as physical condition.” It adds that commanders who neglect this mental health will be sentenced to between six months and two years in prison on charges of professional misconduct or dereliction of duty.
The directive describes the responsibility of commanders in this regard as “a legal obligation rather than a voluntary act.” Commanders will also be responsible for their subordinates' morale, according to the directive.
The move has been interpreted as a measure against a recent surge in suicide among soldiers in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
The General Staff first took action against soldier suicides with a directive it issued on Dec. 12, 2011, called the Action Plan for Personnel with Psychological Disorders. The directive included the results of studies by the General Staff on cases of suicide and attempted suicide.
The study indicated that in 85 percent of the cases, a need for psychological support had been established. As part its analysis, the General Staff reportedly came to the conclusion that its commanders should be responsible for the mental wellbeing of TSK personnel.
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz previously stated that 601 soldiers have died in the last 10 years in the line of duty, compared to 965 who committed suicide during their service in the army.
A recent human rights report by the US Department of State also noted this unresolved issue in Turkey, saying that the main reasons behind soldier suicides in the TSK are insults, beatings, excessive physical activity, a lacking provision of medical services and harassment.
CihanGüncelleme Tarihi: 25 Eylül 2013, 20:55