Armenia: First legal conscientious objectors - but others still in prison

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Armenia: First legal conscientious objectors - but others still in prison

According to information provided by the Armenian Defence Ministry, about 20 persons chose to opt for conscientious objection during the autumn call-up in Armenia, the first after the new law on conscientious objection came into force in July 2004. The new conscientious objectors will be called up for substitute service in the spring call-up in 2005.

The Armenian government adopted a decree (N940) on "locations for alternative military service and alternative service uniform". According to this decree, substitute service will be served in the regions of Syunik, Gegharkunik and Tavush in psychiatric hospitals, orphanages and clinis. The substitute service lasts 42 months.

The first COs already showed that the present law and the application procedure is not very practical. National Assembly speaker Hovhannissian believes this is a result of lack of experience in drafting such legislation. The amendments will specify the rights and obligations of those choosing alternative service. The amendments will determine the social security guarantees and the scope of responsibility in case of violations.

Another issue to be addressed in the amendment is the examination of the applications for alternative service. Initially it was planned that each of the local army committees would examine the applications for alternative service. However, it turned out that it would be impossible to send corresponding experts to all of the local committees.

The amendment proposes to create a special committee within the central army committee that will examine the alternative service applications. "There will be no problems in this respect especially taking into account that there are not that many applications," Hovhannissian concluded.

However, it is important to note that even after the law on conscientious objection came into force, Armenia still continued to arrest conscientious objectors and did not release those already sentenced or under investigation. In mid-November 2004, 13 conscientious objectors were in prison.

Sources: Karine Mangasarian: Not many people desert from military service. 29 October 2004, Yerkir - online Armenian newspaper.

War Resisters' International: Prisoners for Peace 2004, http://wri-irg.org/pubs/pfp04-en.htm#Heading15
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