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Amnesty For Citizens Accused Of Crimes Related To Military Service Discussed In Armenia


Ethnic Armenian soldiers during last year’s 44-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Authorities in Armenia plan to apply amnesty in regard to citizens accused of certain types of crimes and offenses related to last year’s war against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.

A relevant bill has been proposed by the Investigative Committee. It was published on a joint website of draft legal acts for public debate earlier this week.

The Committee said that the purpose of the measure is to show appreciation for the fact that citizens “stood by the armed forces” during the war.

“This shows a humanitarian approach to those who committed crimes connected with military service,” it said.

No exact official statistics is available yet to show how many people may be amnestied under the bill, but it is believed that it may concern scores or even hundreds.

More than 1,600 criminal cases were launched in Armenia in connection with the 44-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh and the bulk of them concerns soldiers and officers who allegedly deserted, refused to perform their military duties or committed other crimes and offenses related to military service.

The draft says that amnestied will be citizens who are suspected, charged with or convicted for committing minor offenses or crimes of medium gravity both before September 27, 2020, when the war in Nagorno-Karabakh broke out, and during the period between the cessation of hostilities on November 9, 2020 and the lifting of martial law in Armenia on March 24, 2021.

While there is no large-scale public debate about the amnesty draft yet, early assessments by human rights activists appear positive.

One of them, Vardan Harutiunian, believes that among other things prisons should be unloaded in Armenia.

“It is not always imprisonment and punishment that corrects a person. Sometimes it is a social situation that changes people more,” he said.

The last time Armenia declared amnesty was in 2018. That amnesty that followed that year’s “velvet revolution” and was timed to the centennial of the establishment of the short-lived first Armenian republic concerned more than 4,600 people.

“Any amnesty, any pardon is reconciliation in a broad sense. But we can speak more substantively on the current initiative when there is a finalized draft or an adopted law,” Harutiunian said.

Meanwhile, Norayr Norikian, a lawyer specializing in military cases, voiced concerns that such an act of amnesty may send a wrong message to society and encourage more offenses in the future.

“It may give rise to political speculations that amnesty is for those who refused to go to war or carry out orders during the war, those who deserted military posts, because if you look at the nature of offenses and crimes against the order of military service you may get a perception that amnesty can be applied in relation to persons charged under all these articles. It may turn out that people may get the wrong impression that the state may show a similar humanitarian approach towards them if they, for example, evade the army draft as conscripts or reservists or do not comply with orders while in service,” the lawyer said.

The amnesty bill was put up for public discussions until September 7. After that, it is supposed to go to the parliament for discussion and adoption.

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