ARMENIA: Continued persecution of conscientious objectors
In recent weeks Armenia continued the persection of conscientious objectors, despite its commitment to recognise the right to conscientious objection.
Conscientious objector Armen Grigoryan (ARM14687 - see http://wri-irg.org/news/htdocs/18012005b.html), a Jehovah's Witness, had been taken to Nagorno-Karabakh by force in June 2004, and was forced to strip and stand in front of 1,800 soldiers in his underwear to tell them why he refused to do military service. He had managed to escape from his unit on 25 August 2004, and was in hiding since. He gave himself up on 28 April 2005, accompanied by his lawyer, and was immediately arrested and taken to Stepanakert, the capital of the internationally unrecognised entity Nagorno-Karabakh, where he is held in solitary confinement. The beginning of his trial is scheduled for 27 May. He faces imprisonment of up to six years on charges of desertion and refusing military service.
Two Jehovah's Witnesses who were performing substitute service under Armenia's discriminitory CO law and refused to continue to serve due to service conditions on 6 May were also arrested. Narek Alaverdyan (ARM14733) and Arsen Sevoyan (ARM14734) refused to continue their substitute service in the Vardenis Psychiatric Hospital, because they were forced to wear military style uniforms and name bages marked "Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia", were regularly visited by military police and given degrading work where they were treated as soldiers. Even the food is provided by the military. After they wrote a letter to the civilian director of the hospital stating that the work regime conflicts with their views on military service, Military Police were dispatched to the hospital, where the two were immediately arrested and taken to an unknown location. Armenia introduced a law on conscientious objection in 2004, due to pressure from the Council of Europe. However, Armenia's law does not comply with international standards, as the example of Narek Alaverdyan and Arsen Sevoyan shows.
War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the Armenian authorities, and Armenian embassies abroad. A protest email can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/co/alerts/20050519a.html.
War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of all imprisoned conscientious objectors.
War Resisters' International
Mr Vartan Oskanian
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Government House #2
Republic of Armenia
resident of the Republic of Armenia
Baghramyan st. 24
fax +374-1-521581, 521796, 151152
A list of Armenian embassies abroad can be found at http://www.armeniaforeignministry.com/htms/embassiesList.html
Archives of co-alert can be found at http://wri-irg.org/news/alerts