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The European Court of Human Rights has imposed a fine of 12,000 Euros on Armenia, accusing the authorities of violating the rights of a group of applicants identifying themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses.

The case, Adyan and others vs Armenia, originated in an application against the Republic of Armenia lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by four Armenian nationals (Artur Adyan, Garegin Avetisyan, Harutyun Khachatryan and Vahagn Margaryan on 6 December 2011).

The applicants alleged, in particular, that their convictions had violated the guarantees of Article 9 of the Convention (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and that their detention had been based on stereotyped reasoning by the courts.

Two of the applicants are reported to be residents of Yerevan; Harutyun Khachatryan and Vahagn Margaryan are identified as residents of  Tsaghkavan (Tavush region) and Kapan (Syunik region), respectively.

In May and June 2011, they were called up for military service. They failed to appear, and instead addressed letters to the local military and the regional prosecutor’s office, refusing to perform either military or alternative service. They stated that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses and claimed that, having studied the Alternative Service Act, they had come to the conclusion that, by European standards, the service proposed was not of a genuinely civilian nature since it was supervised by the military authorities.

The applicants were found guilty of avoiding compulsory service and faced conviction.

In 2012, the Court of Appeals declared their subsequent complaints inadmissible.

They were released on pardon in 2013 after spending 26-27 months in prison.

The Court found that the domestic judicial authorities failed to satisfy the applicants' request to rule out a conflict of interests between conscientious objection (as a pressing social demand) and compulsory militarry service.

The Court found that the rights enshrined in Article 9 of the Convention were violated, with the domestic courts not having submitted sufficient evidence justifying the rulings to send the applicants behind bars.

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