Discussion on the RA Law on “Alternative Military Service”

IMG_0441On February 19, 2016 a discussion was held in the Vanadzor NGO Center’s meeting hall on the topic of the RA Law on “Alternative military service”.

The discussion was initiated and organized by “New Generation” Humanitarian NGO in the scope of “Reinforcement of legislative mechanisms regarding protection of rights of vulnerable groups for rule of law” project, which is financed by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Georgia. The goal of the project is to increase the level of the public awareness through relevant legislative changes, protection of rights of vulnerable groups and development of appropriate human rights protection mechanisms.

The discussion was conducted by Artur Sakunts, president of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, human rights defender. The speaker presented suggestions on making changes in the RA Law on “Alternative military service”.

“Armenia as a member of the European Council has ratified certain international agreements and responsibilities. After a number of appeals sent to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in June 2012, which were related to violation of basic human rights, certain changes occured in the RA Law. Particularly the issue of the alternative military service of religious minorities was solved: they were replaced to other units of the Armed Forces. During the past 10 years more than 4500 Jehovah’s Witnesses avoided the Military service and were sentenced to imprisonment, meanwhile the Armenian Government gave temporary release to about 1150 people and the majority of them were from the Armenian Apostolic Church”, mentioned A. Sakunts, though he did not mention the reason of their temporary release as well as did not clarify if any right was violated.

He also talked about the importance of protection of rights of sexual minorities in the Army and particularly emphasized the importance of interpersonal relationships.

A. Sakunts compared Armenia with dictatorial countries, such as Azerbaijan, to make visible the progress of Armenia and to note that the progress should be ongoing. 

He informed that such kind of discussions should be organized more often to speak up about the need for changes in the RA Law on Alternative military service concerning the rights of sexual minorities.

Representatives of non-profit organizations, mass media, as well as Vanadzor regional military commissariat were present at the meeting who exchaned opinions and common concerns with the speaker at the end of the discussion.

Artur Mikoyan  

Source: “Lori region” newspaper; N 13, February 24, 2016