Armenians who avoided military service will be allowed to pay a fine and be free from persecution
Citizens of Armenia who are older than 27 years of age and who have left the country and did not serve in the army will be able to pay a fine within two years time and will be freed from criminal persecution and return home. The sum of the fine will be 200 000 drams or USD 420 for every missed draft period, totaling 3 600 000 drams (USD 7 500) for the entirety of the service term.
A draft on amending the law on ‘Citizens Who Did Not Serve in the Army in Violation of the Established Procedure’ has been adopted unanimously in the first reading in the National Assembly of Armenia. There is a high probability that it will be approved in the final reading.
The Ministry of Defense came out against the bill. However, even pro-authority MPs seem to have sided against the ministry. Karine Achemyan, an MP of the ruling Republican Party says:
“We wanted to do something good because these ‘kids’ left Armenia for various reasons. Their families have left because of the difficult social situation or for other reasons. It doesn’t make sense to close doors in front of them.”
The MPs also refused an offer from the Ministry of Defense which would have increased the fine from 200 000 to 500 000 drams (more than a thousand dollars) per missed draft call. The MPs felt that this is a large sum and not everyone would be able to pay it back and return home.
MPs from the Yelk and Tsarukyan factions tried to clarify whether the aim of the projec is to increase state income or to allow people to return home.
Yelk MPs Artak Zeynalyan and Mane Tandilyan said: “If repatriation lies at the heart of the changes, then there shouldn’t even be a discussion about a fine.”
Tsarukyan fraction MP Sergey Bagratyan says that 86% of 11 000 Armenians that are currently ‘wanted’ but living abroad are accused of draft desertion, and that if the country wants them to return, there should be no question of a fine.
Karine Achemyan came out against these MPs, saying:
“If we act in that way, then we will encourage draft desertion. These people are subject to criminal persecution because they violated the law. We cannot simply open the doors and say: ‘Leave and then you can come back and not pay anything’.”
She said that over the last few years, the Ministry of Defense has received more than 16 million dollars as a result of the law.
Opposition MPs said that new proposals will be submitted during the second reading and they will try to make changes to the final text of the draft.