The number of Armenians illegally evading compulsory military service has shrunk at least by half over the past decade, a top military official in charge of the draft said on Thursday.
“The number of draft dodgers has decreased by 50 percent since the late 1990s and early 2000s,” Colonel Gagik Harutiunian told journalists. He did not give any figures, saying only that male citizens who have avoided being called up for national service since independence make up about a quarter of Armenia’s “mobilization resources.”
Under Armenian law, all young men aged 18 have to serve in the army for two years unless they suffer from a serious illness or have two children. Those who are enrolled in state-run university are drafted after graduation.
Draft evasion was widespread in the early 1990s when Armenia was at war with Azerbaijan while building its armed forces from scratch. Thousands of draft-age men fled the country at the time.
Harutiunian said the situation has markedly improved since then because of a steady development of the military and its commissariats tasked with recruiting conscripts. He said a growing number of draft-dodgers return to the country to avoid prosecution. More than a hundred of them reported for military service last spring, added the official.
Many more such men choose to buy an amnesty in accordance with a special law. The law drafted by the Armenian Defense Ministry allows fugitive draft-dodgers who were aged 27 and older at the time of its passage in 2004 to avoid criminal prosecution in return for a hefty fee depending on the number of years spent on the run.
According to Harutiunian, roughly 1,000 men make use of the legal arrangement every year.