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Bayatyan v. Armenia
European Court of Human Rights
App. No. 23459/03 (2011)
Vahan Bayatyan (plaintiff) was drafted into the Armenian army at age 17. As a Jehovah’s Witness, Bayatyan opposed war and therefore sought to avoid military service as a conscientious objector and instead fulfill his duty via alternative civilian service. However, the Armenian authorities told Bayatyan that no alternative service existed under Armenian law and that Bayatyan was required to report for service. Bayatyan refused and was subsequently arrested and sentenced to prison for his refusal. Armenia was one of the few nations that were parties (the party nations) to the European Convention on Human Rights (the convention) that did not recognize and provide alternative service for conscientious objectors. Bayatyan eventually filed an application in the European Court of Human Rights’ Grand Chamber, arguing that the Armenian government (defendant) had violated Article 9 of the convention, which provides, in part, that everyone has the right to freely exercise and manifest their religion. The Armenian government argued that, according to established precedent, Article 9 was qualified by Article 4, which dealt with compulsory military service, and therefore did not require party nations to recognize conscientious objectors.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Costa, C.J.)
Dissent (Gyulumyan, J.)
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