NAGORNO-KARABAKH (AZERBAIJAN)- ARMENIA: Conscientious Objector unjustly imprisoned

Artur Avanesyan, a twenty-year-old Jehovah’s Witnesses, is serving a 30-month sentence in the Shushi prison colony of Nagorno-Karabakh despite his willingness to perform alternative civilian service. As reported by Human Rights Without Frontiers International, the courts of Nagorno-Karabakh, on all levels, have denied his fundamental right of conscientious objection to military service.

In his statement Avanesyan says “My conscience doesn’t permit me to perform military service. I love my neighbor, and I do not want to take up arms or even learn to harm anyone.”

Artur Avanesyan filed his application for alternative civilian service first in January 2014. Knowing that Nagorno-Karabakh has no provision in place for alternative civilian service, he also pursued his options for cosncientious objection in Armenia - with the help of an attorney. As an Armenian citizen himself, he found out that he could apply for alternative service in Armenia and submitted his application to the Republic of Armenia Masis Military Commissariat in February 2014.

As of his application he never heard from Armenia’s alternative service board but after several months, in July 2014, he got arrested by Yerevan police and got escorted from Yerevan to Askeran, Nagorno-Karabakh against his will. That was a de facto extradition, as reported by Human Rights Without Frontiers International, without hearing, court order, or other formalities.

Avanesyan is behind bars since September 2014, and will stay in prison until January 2017. As he has exhausted all domestic remedies, he has also submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Source: Human Rights Without Frontiers International, Armenia - Azerbaijan/Nagorno Karabakh: Nagorno-Karabakh unjustly imprisons conscientious objector, 22 August 2016