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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

ECHR To Hear Jehovah’s Witness Complaint Against Armenia

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights will today hear arguments in a freedom of religion and conscience complaint brought by a Jehovah’s Witness against Armenia.

Bayatyan v. Armenia (Application no. 23459/03)

Vahan Bayatyan is an Armenian national, born in 1983. He is a Jehovah’s Witness. The case concerns his criminal conviction for refusal to perform military service for conscientious reasons.

Declared fit for military service, Mr Bayatyan became eligible for the spring draft of 2001. In letters sent to a number of officials, he declared that he refused to perform military service for conscientious reasons, but that he was prepared to do alternative civil service.

The Parliamentary Commission for State and Legal Affairs subsequently informed him that since there was no law in Armenia on alternative service, he was obliged to serve in the army. In a judgment eventually upheld by the Court of Cassation in January 2003, he was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. In July 2003, he was released on parole.

Mr Bayatyan complains that his conviction violated his rights under Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights. He also submitted that the Article should be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions, namely the fact that the majority of Council of Europe Member States have recognised the right of conscientious objection and that Armenia in 2000, before becoming a member, had committed to “pardon all conscientious objectors sentenced to prison terms”.

The hearing will be broadcast from 14h30 (CET) on the Court’s Internet site (

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