ECHR orders to compensate Jehovah's Witnesses who refused army service
MOSCOW, November 27 - RAPSI. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) granted several local Jehovah's Witnesses 124,000 Euros in damages from the Armenian government. The individuals filed a complaint in relation to the legality of being arrested for evading military or alternative service.
Nineteen claimants filed the relevant complaint with the court. They claimed that in 2004 they used a law allowing Armenian citizens to provide alternative community service at hospitals, convalescent homes or specialized clinics. But in 2005, the defendants notified the facility administrators that they refused to fulfill their obligations.
The defendants justified their refusal by claiming that this alternative service was in fact subordinating them to the Defense Ministry, and thus they were in fact members of the armed forces. Since this contradicted their beliefs, they stopped serving. Criminal cases were then initiated against each of the defendants; and they were taken into custody.
Eventually, the criminal cases were dismissed, but the defendants still filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) based on the illegality of their detention.
The court unanimously sided with the defendants, and held that the government must compensate the claimants within three months.