Armenia fined by European Court of Human Rights

In a further reminder of Armenia's neglect of its international obligations towards conscientious objectors, in November Armenia was fined by the European Court of Human Rights for violating the right to liberty and security of seventeen conscientious objectors who had been detained for absconding from substitute service. The Court said their right to compensation for unlawful detention had been violated.

In 2005, nineteen Jehovah's Witnesses who had initially accepted the government's alternative service changed their minds and left this service, after realising they were actually under military control. Criminal proceedings were brought against them and seventeen were held in detention (the other two were under curfew). After several months, some were released and had their charges dropped, but eleven were sentenced to prison terms from two to three years.

The Court ruled in favour of seventeen of the nineteen, saying that these criminal prosecutions and detentions were illegal because in 2005, there was no law in Armenia that made it a crime to abandon alternative service. Importantly, for the first time in such cases, Armenia's European Court Judge Alvina Gyulumyan did not dissent from the judgement. The Armenian government will award each of the seventeen 6,000 Euros as compensation, and pay a further 10,000 Euros in costs for all the applicants.

Unless either side appeal against the ruling, it will become final three months after it was handed down.

Sources: Jehovah's Witnesses, 3 December 2012; Forum 18, 3 December 2012.