The bill changes the law so that only students that agree in advance to sign a contract committing to serving in the armed forces for two years after they graduate will be granted a temporary exemption from conscription. The proposal inspired large protests at Yerevan State University, where 500 students went on strike on 7th November.

Armenia's Ministry of Justice has presented to parliament amendments to provide for a substitute 'civilian' service. These have now passed all their readings, and therefore the amendments to the 2003 Alternative Service Law and to the 2003 Law on Implementing the Criminal Code should be enacted.

Right to conscientious objection still not guaranteed in Europe

Amnesty International, marking the International Conscientious Objectors Day, renews its call on all states to recognise the right to conscientious objection to military service. Nearly two years ago the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that states must respect the right to conscientious objection as part of their obligation to respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, bringing European law in line with international human rights standards.

On 18 March, the Armenian parliament approved alternative service amendments in their first reading which would that mean that COs motivated by their religious beliefs – in practice in Armenia mainly Jehovah's Witnesses – will undertake alternative service of a reduced length.

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.

On 2 February 2012, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, demanded that the right to conscientious objection to military service should be guaranteed in all parts of Europe. In his blog post, he stated:

"People should not be imprisoned when their religious or other convictions prevent them from doing military service. Instead they should be offered a genuinely civilian alternative. This is now the established European standard, respected in most countries – but there are some unfortunate exceptions."

Following the Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Bayatyan v Armenia from July 2011, in which the European Court of Human Rights for the first time recognised the right to conscientious objection as a right recognised under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (see CO-Update No 67, August 2011), several chambers of the European Court have no consolidated this new jurisprudence of the Court.

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