A standing committee of Armenia’s parliament rejected on Friday a Defense Ministry proposal to scrap a law allowing Armenian men who illegally evaded compulsory military service to buy an amnesty.
Under the law enacted in 2004, they can avoid criminal prosecution in exchange for a hefty fee depending on the number of years they have spent on the run. The amnesty-for-cash scheme was originally applicable to those fugitive men who were aged 27 or older by June 2004. This age threshold has been repeatedly raised since then.
The parliamentary factions of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and all other political groups represented in the National Assembly are now seeking another extension that would apply to male citizens who have turned 27 before December 1, 2017.
The Defense Ministry has put forward an amendment to their joint bill stipulating that there will be no further extensions of the scheme. The chairman of the parliament committee on defense and security, Koryun Nahapetian, and several other lawmakers affiliated with the HHK publicly criticized the amendment earlier this week.
The committee formally opposed the proposal at a late-night meeting. Most of its members stood by their view that the measure sought by Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian would deprive thousands of fugitive men of a chance to return to their homeland.
One of the Republican deputies, Karine Achemian, also argued that Sargsian’s amendment would restrict lawmakers’ constitutional right to come up with any bill.
The parliamentary panel also rejected another ministry proposal that would drastically raise the legal cost of the amnesty to at least 9 million drams ($19,000). The latest version of the bill approved by it sets the figure at around 3.6 million drams.
Nahapetian said on Wednesday that 700 and 800 draft dodgers have been granted such amnesty annually since 2004. He also revealed that almost 9,500 other men remain on the run on draft evasion charges.