- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
March 12, 2004

Free for a Fee: New law provides amnesty for draft dodgers

As of March 1, men who went abroad to avoid military service can return to Armenia , pay a fine, and have their rights restored.

Since 1992, males of age 18 or older who left the country and did not return for military conscription have been on a “wanted” list and liable to prosecution. The new law stipulates that amnesty will be granted to those age 27 or older who, according to their situations, pay from about $50 to $180 for each semi-annual call up he has missed.

Officials estimate that the law would apply to about 5,000 such cases.

“Within recent years there have been many complaints. Our countrymen residing abroad live in very bad conditions. They are oppressed at every step, money is squeezed from them,” says head of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Defense Sedrak Sedrakyan. “We ventured upon this step for legalizing their residency in Armenia and abroad. Criminal cases filed against them will be dismissed so that they could get their civil rights.”

Defense Ministry officials express hope that adoption of the law will help many young men return to their homeland.

“On one hand their return is to the interest of the country but on the other hand, free and unimpeded return is not quite a proper thing,” says Deputy Defense Minister Artur Aghabekyan. “Their friends and peers have been serving, fighting and dying instead of them all those years which they have spent abroad.”

Applications of citizens residing abroad will be submitted by corresponding diplomatic services which will be sending them to regional and district military enlistment offices.

The law also provides some privileges for those who can prove they have been persecuted for avoiding military service.

Citizens whose fathers or brothers died during military service are exempted from fines. Also, those who have three or more children and those who have two children growing up without a mother are exempted.

Those eligible for service who return but do not pay, will be prosecuted.

Collected fees will be applied to a special account that will be used for developing contract military service.

According to the Ministry of Defense, today there are about 14,000 to 15,000 males who have left the country before the age when they must have been taken to army and they are not registered with the military enlistment offices. A new law is being prepared that would apply to those.

Arik, who is an artist by profession, has been living in London for five years. He has returned and brought with him money which he had been collecting specially for this purpose.

“Despite it was not easy to earn this money, I will finally get rid of this problem. For five years I've been waiting for this day. Finally I can feel myself a free man,” he says.

According to Agnes


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Flying High

In anticipation of this weekend's visit by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, workers put up flags on Mashtots Avenue in Yerevan. At first, Armenian and Georgian flags were placed, but the Georgian ones had to come down when it was discovered that the design was wrong.



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