Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Signed (8 Sep 2000). Ratified (3 Jul 2002).
Compulsory recruitment age: 18.
Voluntary recruitment age: 17 (as a cadet school student).
Duration of compulsory military service: 18 months / 12 months for university graduates.
Conscientious objection to military service recognised for conscripts: Yes by a constitutional recognition in 1995 / Not by law yet.
Conscientious objection recognised for professional soldiers: No.
Military expenditure: 3.4% of GDP (data 2009).
1) Under-18s could volunteer to join the armed forces as cadets at military school. NGOs in Azerbaijan reported that in practice 17-year-olds who had graduated from military secondary-schools could go straight into military service.
2) Two military secondary-schools admitted pupils after eight years of education. Children could enter the schools at 14 years of age. Graduates were expected to go on to study at military higher-education institutions to become officers, but those who did not could join the army as ordinary soldiers. Three Supreme Military Schools for the army, navy and air force and the Academy of National Security accepted pupils aged 17–19 as cadets who were considered to be members of the armed forces. The schools offered courses based on NATO standards.
3) There is no right to conscientious objection.
4) Conscientious objectors are prosecuted, imprisoned and ill-treated.
On 4 March 2011 well-known Azerbaijani activist, former parliamentary candidate Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, 29 years old, was arrested for evading obligatory military service and sentenced to one month of pre-trial detention. According to a handwritten letter he managed to have delivered to friends from his place of detention, Hajiyev was beaten, verbally abused, threatened with rape and denied medical attention in early stages of his arrest. In his letter, Hajiyev also announced he was starting a hunger-strike (which has since been called off) and implied that he may be suicidal. Hajiyev had previously asserted to law enforcement and military officials, who have been harassing him since November 2010, that he wished to exercise his right to perform alternative service, in lieu of traditional military service, consistent with Azerbaijan's Constitution.
Conscientious objector Farid Mammadov, 22 years old, as a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, refuses military service for reasons of conscience. Since he was first called up to military service in 2006, Mammadov repeatedly requested permission to perform alternative civilian service that is not under military control. He was sentenced on 16 July by the Baku Nasimi District to nine months imprisonment Court for evading military service. The Baku Court of Appeal upheld the Nasimi District Court’s conviction of Farid Mammadov. The court pronounced judgment on September 8, 2010, and immediately thereafter the 22-year-old was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and taken to prison to serve a nine-month sentence. On 25 January 2011 Azerbaijan's Supreme Court rejected his appeal.
The Supreme Court upheld a lower courts prosecution of Mushfiq Mammedov in a similar case in December 2010. Mushfig Mammedov and Samir Huseynov, also prosecuted for military evasion, have filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.
Conscientious objector Mushfiq Mammadov, 28 years old, was detained on 10 August 2009, and sentenced only one day later, on charges of evading military service. As a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mushfiq Mammedov refuses military service for reasons of conscience. He was reportedly being held in the Kurdakhani isolation center and has not been given a lawyer. He was once detained in 2006 and given a six-month suspended prison term on the same charges.
Samir Huseynov, a 25-years old Jehovah's Witness, was imprisoned for his conscientious objection to military service. The Geranboy District Court in western Azerbaijan sentenced Huseynov on 4 October 2007 to 10 months in prison for evading compulsory military service. He was punished under Article 321.1 of the Criminal Code, which prescribes a penalty of up to two years' imprisonment. When he was called up in summer 2007 he told the military commissariat he was prepared to do a civilian alternative service. Officials refused to give Huseynov a copy of the written verdict within the prescribed period. Huseynov finally signed an appeal on 22 October, which he sent to the appeal court via the prison administration. However, on 5 November the court sent it back on the grounds that it was written in Russian. Huseynov re-wrote it in Azerbaijani and asked the prison administration to send it to the court on 8 November. However, on 26 November the court rejected the appeal as it said it had been received after the deadline for lodging appeals.
1) Stop the voluntary recruitment of persons aged under 18.
2) Stop military training and abolish military schools for persons aged under 18.
3) Recognise the right to conscientious objection for conscripts, serving conscripts, reservists and professional soldiers.
4) Stop prosecuting, imprisoning and ill-treating conscientious objectors.
Notes: The NAGORNO-KARABAKH REPUBLIC (NKR) had its own laws and armed forces, but remained unrecognized internationally. The NKR constitution required citizens to do two years’ compulsory military service after 18 years old. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment was also 18. Men could become professional soldiers on completing military service. Women could also sign up voluntarily. There are no legal provisions for conscientious objection.
Conscientious objectors are prosecuted and imprisoned. On 30 June 2010, conscientious objector Armen Mirzoyan, 20 years old, was sentenced to one year imprisonment for "refusal to perform military duties". He was sentenced at Hadrut District Court in the south of Nagorno-Karabakh. As a Baptist, Armen Mirzoyan is opposed to swearing the military oath, or to take up weapons, but he would be willing to serve in the army of Nagorno-Karabakh without taking up weapons. Armen Mirzoyan, was called up in January and transferred to military unit 38401 in Hadrut, where he was threatened by commanders after he refused their pressure to swear the oath. Conscientious objector Areg Hovhanesyan, a Jehovah's Witness, was freed from prison in February 2009 after completing a four-year prison term.