NOVEMBER 20, 2013
YEREVAN, Armenia—On November 12, 2013, Armenia released the remaining 14 Jehovah’s Witnesses imprisoned for their refusal to join the military. In total, 28 imprisoned conscientious objectors who are Jehovah’s Witnesses have been released since October 8, 2013. This signals a change in Armenia’s pattern of disregarding the right of conscientious objection, a policy that led to the imprisonment of over 450 young Witness men over the past 20 years. Now, for the first time since 1993, there are no Jehovah’s Witnesses imprisoned in Armenia for their conscientious objection to military service.
Before the November 12 release, Armenia released eight Witnesses on October 8 and 9, based on an amnesty that reduced their prison sentences by six months. Six others were released on October 24. These six were the first to benefit from amendments adopted on June 8, 2013, to Armenia’s existing law on alternative civilian service. These amendments allow conscientious objectors to apply to perform alternative service that is not under military control and supervision instead of being imprisoned.
Over 90 Witnesses have applied for this new program. On October 23 and November 12, 2013, the Republican Commission reviewed and approved the applications of 71 of these young men. The Commission announced its intention to hear the remaining cases shortly.
David A. Semonian, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses at their world headquarters in New York, states: “We are pleased that the Armenian government has released these young men and that this long-standing issue appears to be resolved.”
International: David A. Semonian, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5000
Armenia: Tigran Harutyunyan, tel. +374 93 900 482