The European Court renders two judgments—further protecting the rights of conscientious objectors
For Immediate Release
January 12, 2012
STRASBOURG, France—On January 10, 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) released two new judgments protecting the right of conscientious objectors in the cases of Bukharatyan v. Armenia and Tsaturyan v. Armenia, both involving Jehovah’s Witnesses. These judgments come on the heels of the Bayatyan v. Armenia judgment announced by the Grand Chamber on July 7, 2011, which concluded, for the first time in the history of the ECHR, that the right to conscientious objection to military service is fully protected under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The two applicants, Hayk Bukharatyan and Ashot Tsaturyan, were sentenced in 2003 to two years of imprisonment by Armenian authorities for refusal to participate in military service, a personal decision motivated by their Bible-trained conscience. Armenia’s punitive actions toward Mr. Bukharatyan and Mr. Tsaturyan took place despite its previous commitment to the Council of Europe, in January 2001, to institute a genuine civilian alternative service for conscientious objectors and, in the meantime, to pardon all those already convicted. Mr. Bukharatyan and Mr. Tsaturyan appealed their cases to the ECHR around the same time as Mr. Vahan Bayatyan, stating that their rights were violated under Article 9 of the European Convention. Relying on the Bayatyanjudgment, the ECHR concluded that Armenia violated Article 9 of the European Convention when it convicted and imprisoned Mr. Bukharatyan and Mr. Tsaturyan for their conscientious objection to military service.
To date, Armenian authorities continue to ignore the ECHR directives and have recently imprisoned five more conscientious objectors. Shane Brady, the attorney who represents these young men, stated: “These two judgments come at the right time. We hope the Armenian authorities will now reconsider their position and release the 58 young men that are currently incarcerated as conscientious objectors.”
David Semonian, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5600
Armenia: Tigran Harutyunyan, tel. +374 10 274 544
Belgium: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +32 2 782 0015
Britain: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +44 7775 833880
Source: JW Media