Armenia

Armenia

Conscription: Yes.

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Signed (24 Sep 2003). Ratified (30 Sep 2005).
Compulsory recruitment age: 18.
Voluntary recruitment age: 18, 16-17 as a cadet.
Duration of compulsory military service: 24 months.
Conscientious objection to military service recognised for conscripts: Yes, since 2003.
Duration of civilian service: 42 months.
Conscientious objection recognised for professional soldiers: No.
Military expenditure: 4.2% of GDP (data 2009).

Remarks:

The voluntary recruitment age is less than 18 (as a cadet).

Military training was compulsory for school students aged about 16–18. Boys and girls in weekly classes learned how to handle automatic weapons. In 2006 in one school in a poor suburb of Yerevan, the capital, military training started much earlier. A class of 18 boys and six girls aged 11 and 12, many of whom were orphans, were chosen to pilot military training for pre-adolescents, with the stated aim of improving school discipline. They were taught by a former paratrooper to march, handle automatic weapons and use combat skills. The Ministry of Education and Science reportedly planned to extend the course to 11 other “special schools” with disadvantaged pupils around the country, and to allow children who wanted military careers to transfer to those schools. Military training after secondary-school was provided through officer training at the Vazgen Sarkizyan Military Institute, the Military Aviation Institute, and the Military Medical Faculty of Yerevan Medical University. Cadets could be accepted for military higher education from the year they turned 17. During their studies, they were considered to be military personnel, with all the corresponding rights and duties.

In June 2011 there were 69 Jehovah’s Witnesses in prison for their conscientious refusal of military service on religious grounds. Their imprisonment sentences varied from 12 to 36 months. In the case of Jehovah's Witness Vahan Bayatyan (Bayatyan v. Armenia, application no. 23459/03), who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison following his refusal of military service on the grounds of conscientious objection, a Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights stated categorically on 27 October 2009 that conscientious objection to military service is not protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, failing to uphold international human rights standards. On 10 May 2010 the case was referred to the Grand Chamber at Mr Bayatyan’s request. On 15 July 2010 written comments on this case were submitted jointly by Amnesty International, Conscience and Peace Tax International, Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quakers), International Commission of Jurists, and War Resisters' International as a Third Party Intervention to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. According to the Grand Chamber judgment which was issued on 7 July 2011 (judgment adopted on 01/06/2011), there had been a violation of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Although Article 9 does not explicitly refer to a right to conscientious objection, the Grand Chamber considered that opposition to military service - where it was motivated by a serious and insurmountable conflict between the obligation to serve in the army and a person’s conscience or deeply and genuinely held religious or other beliefs – constituted a conviction or belief of sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance to attract the guarantees of Article 9. This ruling was historic because it was the first time that the European Convention on Human Rights has been interpreted so as to recognise explicitly the right to conscientious objection to military service.

  • There is no right to conscientious objection for serving conscripts, reservists and professional soldiers.
  • The civilian service is under the control of the military and it has extremely punitive duration (75% longer than the military service).

Recommendations:

  • Stop the voluntary recruitment of persons aged under 18.
  • Stop the military training of school students aged 16–18 and the pilot military training for pre-adolescents aged 11-12.
  • Release all imprisoned conscientious objectors. Stop prosecuting conscientious objectors.
  • Recognise the right to conscientious objection for serving conscripts, reservists and professional soldiers.
  • Make a genuinely civilian service of equal duration to the military one.