Armenian draft evaders have until end of year to avoid criminal prosecution
The Ministry of Defence of Armenia will not extend the law “On citizens who have not completed compulsory military service” past December 31, which effectively allows citizens age 27 or older who avoided military service by leaving the country to pay a fine and return home.
After December 31, 2019, draft dodgers will face criminal prosecution.
The law was adopted in 2003, and the deadline was set until March 1, 2009. However, parliament repeatedly extended it at the suggestion of the government.
The penalty paid by each draft evader is calculated by year by how many years he spent outside the country, from adulthood to his return. In this regard, many return when they turn 27 years old, and they no longer face draft.
The amount of the fine, which was established in May 2019, when the law was last extended, is 1.8 million drams (about 4,000 USD).
If the parliament approves the proposal of the government, then from January 1, 2020, everyone who does not take advantage of the opportunity provided by the law will be prosecuted.
The proposal to terminate the law to avoid criminal liability was presented on December 12 by the Minister of Defence.
According to David Tonoyan, practice has shown that the extension of the law only stimulates evasion of military service. Many young people who are not yet 18 years old leave the country, knowing that they can return by paying a fine.
In addition, this “loophole” for those wishing to avoid the army, the minister says, is an injustice towards those who have already given their debt to their homeland and served in the army.
David Tonoyan emphasized that by December 31 of this year, all three thousand persons liable for military service that fall under this law can still seize the opportunity to plead guilty and avoid criminal liability.
The proposal of the Minister of Defense was supported by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
He called on all those liable for military service, who can and want to pay, to return before the end of the year and celebrate New Year in their homeland.
A more radical approach
In parallel with discussions in the government on the termination of the law, allowing to evade service, the opposite process was going on in parliament.
Hayk Sargsyan, an MP from the ruling My Step faction, made a new proposal for those who do not want to serve in the army: to serve a month instead of two years, but to pay for this a larger amount – 10 million drams (about 20 thousand dollars).
The bill has not been welcomed by the Ministry of Defense.
Deputy Minister of Defense Gabriel Balayan stated that Hayk Sargsyan’s legislative initiative is not in tune with Armenian realities:
“For us, this position is fundamentally unacceptable. The fact is that after conscription, a soldier goes through at least a five-month training phase. Only after that does he begin full military service. It is impossible to prepare a full-fledged soldier in a month, as Sargsyan suggests.”
Social media reactions
Armenian Facebook users are avidly discussing the proposal:
“We must offer an alternative. Because criminal liability, in fact, means that these guys never returned to their homeland.”
“An unfair law in relation to those who have already served. It turns out that the state, as it were, says: you can run away, and then just pay the penalty – and that’s the end. Therefore, the very right decision is to remove this law. It’s simple, the deadlines are short, there is not enough time until December 31.”
“Empty chatter. They cannot accept such a law. At least with such a short time for return. Now a little time will pass, and they will say: well, okay, we’ll give another year of time. It is absurd to say that you have 20 days — either come or go to prison for 3 years.”