Voskanyan fired by the head of personnel department
Arshaluis Budaghyan has been reinstated by
The head of the financial subdivision of the
Stepanavan Police Department Zemfira Voskanyan,
who was dismissed from her position for her religious
beliefs has been reintated.
Voskanyan, a Jehovah's Witness, applied to the
Court of First Instance of the Lori Region to
be reinstated to her position. The first court
session began April 9 in Vanadzor. During Tuesday's
(April 22) court session deputy head of the personnel
department of the Lori Regional Police Arshaluis
Budaghyan read the order of the head of Police
Department, according to which Voskanyan is restored
to her previous position with back pay till February
when she was dismissed. (Click here to read last
week's ArmeniaNow story about her case.)
But the reinstatement didn't satisfy Voskanyan's
Voskanyan's dismissal conforms to order 551-A
issued last December by the head of the Republic
of Armenia Police, Hayk Harutyunyan. According
to No. 551-A, police department employees who
are members of any religion other than Armenian
Apostolic Church must be identified. And, those
who do not recant their faith are subject to being
"I'm afraid that I can be fired again as
551-A order is still functioning," Voskanyan
said at the session.
During a previous session attorney Drew Holyner,
who represents Voskanyan, filed a motion to have
Order 551-A declared unconstitutional.
"Decision 551-A is closely related to the
discharge. Even if the court restores her rights
for the work, she can be fired again at any second
according to that law," Holyner stated.
Another Voskanyan attorney Levon Margaryan said
in court that Order 551-A can become a basis for
dismissing not only Jehovah's Witnesses but those
of other religious beliefs. He shared Holyner's
argument that it contradicts international agreements
on freedom of conscience and the Constitution
of Armenia and should be recognized as illegal.
However, judge Mushegh Harutyunyan dismissed
the appeal, saying that he has a right to accept
an additional appeal during one session only in
case it concerns the same parties. In this case
the head of the Republic of Armenia Police Hayk
Harutyunyan is regarded as the opposite side and
not the Stepanavan Police Department. Both sides
can appeal against Harutyunyan's decision.
At the end of the court session the judge stated
that he dismissed the case because of the "absence
"Of course, we are satisfied that Zemfira
is restored to her position, however, the problem
hasn't been resolved yet," Holyner said.
"The danger of the Order 551-A will always
be threatening her. We still have to discuss what
we are going to do."
For the present moment the attorney is awaiting
his client's decision on whether to appeal.
If she is not satisfied with reinstatement and
wishes instead to challenge the order, she must
first appeal the Wednesday decision, then proceed
with her complaint against the order.
Voskanyan, an 18-year employee of the department,
was dismissed in accordance with the following
paragraph of the legislation, "when a worker's
or an employee's discrepancy with the position
they hold is determined." The police department
considered the fact of her being Jehovah's Wintness
as discrepancy with the position she holds.
"Anybody can be dismissed in accordance
with the order like that only if there are two
grounds such as qualification and health condition,"
explained the judge, after court had adjorned.
"It's good that the police department accepted