d iAll the 450 Jehovah’s Witnesses imprisoned for refusing to join military service have all been released from prison by the government of Armenia in the last 20 years.
The last batch of 14 was released November 12, 2013 thus giving the Armenian government clean bill from human right violation of the witnesses.
According to Spokesman of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, David A. Semonian the release of the witnesses signalled 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.
He explained that 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”, he said.
“We are pleased that the Armenian government has released these young men and that this long-standing issue appears to be resolved, ” the statement noted.
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 them and announced its intention to hear the remaining cases shortly.