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Armenia: Update of AMN31741.E of 6 May 1999 on the treatment of conscientious objectors, draft evaders and deserters (June 1999 - Aug 2002)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 23 August 2002
Citation / Document Symbol AMN39473.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Armenia: Update of AMN31741.E of 6 May 1999 on the treatment of conscientious objectors, draft evaders and deserters (June 1999 - Aug 2002), 23 August 2002, AMN39473.E, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In addition to the information included in AMN31741.E of 6 May 1999, please consult the chapter on Armenia from Refusing to Bear Arms published by War Resister's International (WRI) attached to this Response.

WRI noted in May 1998 that conscientious objection was "not legally recognized," there was no substitute service, and both draft evasion and desertion are punishable under law (8 May 1998). The relevant legislation under the Armenian Criminal Code includes: the wilful refusal to perform military service (Art. 75), refusal to respond to mobilization (Art. 76), absent without leave (Art. 253 and 254), desertion (Art. 255 and 256), and evading military duties by "cheating of means of self-inflicted injury" (Art. 257) (WRI 8 May 1998). The duration of imprisonment for violating these laws are: Article 75, one to five years, Article 253 three months to 10 years, Article 254 one to 10 years and, three to ten years (death in wartime) for Articles 76, 255, 256 and 257 (WRI 8 May 1998). According to official Armenian statistics, 15,380 individuals evaded military service in the period of 1992-2000 (Snark News Agency 14 Nov. 2000).

As HRW noted in 1999, Armenia was "obliged to respect the rights of conscientious objectors" under the Council of Europe's Recommendation No. R (87) 8 (29 Jan. 1999), to which the state acceded in January 2001 (IHFHR 8 May 2002, 19). HRW noted that in June 2001, "Armenia partially implemented a Council of Europe requirement to pardon all sentenced conscientious objectors"; however, Armenia "flouted the requirement by continuing to arrest, detain, and imprison conscientious objectors [and] did not adopt a law on alternative service" (10 Jan. 2002, 285).

In 2001, an Amnesty International appeal noted that they knew of 20 prisoners of conscience in Armenian jail "several of whom have reportedly been beaten in detention" (June 2001). Although Armenia reportedly pardoned and released thirty-seven Jehovah's Witnesses in 2001 (HRW 10 Jan. 2002 285), the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHFHR) noted that 59 new conscientious objectors were sentenced in 2001, including 16 Jehovah's Witnesses (8 May 2002, 26). According to a statement issued by a Jehovah's Witnesses organization, claiming 7,000 Armenian adherents, "over 100 [members] have been convicted for refusing to serve in the national army" (Arminfo16 Jan. 2002). Furthermore, it was reported in July 2002 that 23 Jehovah's Witnesses were in jail, charged with evading military service and/or desertion (ibid. 23 July 2002).

In addition to reports detailing the treatment of JW objectors, several reports detail demonstrations against the conscription of university undergraduate and postgraduate students. In November 2001, ArmeniaWeek reported that undergraduate students in Yerevan had "staged a series of demonstrations outside government buildings ... [to protest] plans to draft them into the army before they complete their studies" (16 Nov. 2001). Reportedly, army officials "have taken a number of students from their homes and into the army" (ibid.). While these protests successfully gained undergraduate students reprieve from conscription until after graduation, postgraduates, who, according to Armenian law, can "postpone compulsory military service" were not equally successful (ibid. 23 Nov. 2001). A third report from ArmeniaWeek noted that postgraduate students were characterized as attempting to escape military service by military authorities and those requesting delays in conscription still received call-up papers (28 Dec. 2001). The protest failed to sway authorities and one protester was later reportedly beaten to death by other soldiers after his call-up to the Armenian army (ibid., 22 Mar. 2002).

Since 2001, alternative service for conscientious objectors has been subject of political discussion. A 12 March 2002 report noted that the Armenian National Assembly was to discuss the draft law on alternative service on 13 March (Arminfo 12 Mar. 2002). According to the Parliamentary Commissioner for defense, national security and internal affairs, the draft law was intended to provide a citizen with the

right to do alternative service if he was a member of a religious organization which prohibited military service and the carrying, keeping and using of weapons. Vahan Ovanesyan said that those who personally applied to the military registration and enlistment office at the place of their residence before 1 March or 1 September, i.e. before conscription started, and about whom the conscription commission adopted the appropriate decision, would do alternative service. Under the bill, alternative service lasts 42 months. The term can be reduced by 12 months if the citizen sent to do alternative service transfers a sum equivalent to 1,000 minimum salaries to an account opened to that end at the Armenian Savings Bank within 10 days after the appropriate decision is adopted.

Ovanesyan said that the conscription commission had the right to deny a conscript's request to substitute regular military service with alternative service if the citizen who made the request had been summoned by the conscription commission for a second time and had been absent both times for inadequate reasons, or if the request and attached documents contained false information.


Ovanesyan said that a citizen doing alternative service was considered to be a serviceman ... [and] that the bill would come into force on 1 January 2003 (ibid.)

An interview with Armenia's Deputy Defense Minister Artur Agabekyan reported the draft law was not adopted by 14 March 2002 (Ayots Ashkar 14 Mar. 2002), and both he and Commissioner Ovanesyan specified that it needed further revision (ibid.; Noyan Tapan 13 Mar. 2002). On 18 July 2002, Armenian President Robert Kocharyan "signed the law 'On Military Service' adopted by the National Assembly" (ibid. 23 July 2002). This law reportedly "establishes the procedure of military service" (ibid.) including, "the procedure for calling citizens up to military service in peacetime" (Arminfo 26 June 2002). Neither of these reports however mentioned alternative service or modifications to conscription law and the Research Directorate was unable find reports of a recently adopted alternative service law.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International. June 2001. World Wide Appeals. "Imprisonment of Conscientious Objectors." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2002]

ArmeniaWeek [Yerevan]. 22 March 2002. Zhanna Alexanian. "Deadly Conscription: Investigation into Soldier's Death Reaches Beyond Barracks." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2002]

_____. 28 December 2001. Zhanna Alexanian. "Draft Dispute: Students Appeal to Court Claiming Illegal Army Call Up." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2002]

_____. 23 November 2001. Zhanna Alexanian. "Army Mess: One Group of Students Escapes the Draft, But Another is Caught." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2002]

_____. 16 November 2001. Zhanna Alexanian. "Army Daze: Students Protest Unexpected Conscription Orders." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2002]

Arminfo [Yerevan, in Russian]. 23 July 2002. "23 Jehovah's Witnesses in Jail for Evading Military Service" (FBIS-SOV-2002-0723 23 July 2002/WNC)

_____. 26 June 2002. "Armenian Parliament Endorses Law on Military Service in Second Reading." (FBIS-SOV-2002-0628 26 June 2002/WNC)

_____. 12 March 2002. "Armenian Parliament Draws Up Bill on Alternative Military Service." (FBIS-SOV-2002-0312 12 Mar. 2002/WNC)

_____. 16 January 2002. "Armenia: Jehovah's Witnesses Report Ongoing Persecution of Draft Objectors." (FBIS-SOV-2002-0116 16 Jan. 2002/WNC)

Ayots Ashkar [Yerevan, in Armenian]. 14 March 2002. "Armenian Officials Say Money Should be Paid for Exemption from Military Service." (BBC Monitoring 15 Mar. 2002/NEXIS)

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 10 January 2002. Human Rights Watch World Report 2002. "Armenia." [Accessed 20 Aug. 2002]

_____. 29 January 1999. Holly Cartner. "Letter to Armenian President Kocharian Armenian Government Must Respect the Rights of Conscientious Objectors." [Accessed 20 Aug. 2002]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHFHR). 8 May 2002. Human Rights in the OSCE Region: The Balkans; the Caucasus; Europe; Central Asia and North America Report 2002. "Armenia." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2002]

Noyan Tapan [Yerevan, in Russian]. 23 July 2002. "Armenian President Signs Law on Military Service." (FBIS-SOV-2002-0723 23 July 2002/WNC)

_____. 13 March 2002. "Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Says Alternative Service Bill Needs Revision." (FBIS-SOV-2002-0314 13 Mar. 2002/WNC)

Snark News Agency [Yerevan, in Russian]. 14 November 2000. "Armenian MP Proposes Alternative Service to Tackle Evasion of Military Service." (FBIS-SOV-2000-1115/WNC)

War Resister's International (WRI). 8 May 1998. Refusing to Bear Arms: A Worldwide Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to Military Service. "Armenia." [Accessed 20 Aug. 2002]

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War Resister's International (WRI). 8 May 1998. Refusing to Bear Arms: A Worldwide Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to Military Service. "Armenia." [Accessed 20 Aug. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases


Internet sites including:

Aravot Daily

Armenia Globe

Armenia Week


Asbarez (Armenian Daily Newspaper)

British Helsinki Human Rights Group

European Country of Origin Information Network


International Constitutional Law

Legislation Online

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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