Parliamentary question - E-2543/2003Parliamentary question

Violation of religious freedom in Armenia

by Maurizio Turco (NI)
to the Commission

Since the beginning of July one Jehovah’s Witness has been sentenced to one and a half years in a labour camp and two others have been arrested and are currently being tried because they refuse to do military service. This brings the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses convicted for refusing to do military service to 24, whilst 8 others are awaiting trial.


There are around 7 500 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Armenia and they have been denied the right to register as a religious organisation. In December 2002 legislation was passed stipulating that only members of the Armenian Apostolic Church may join the police. Members of other confessions are to undergo ‘training and educational work’ designed to make them spontaneously renounce membership of other religious organisations. If the ‘training and educational work’ prove inadequate, those who are already members of the police force will be dismissed and anyone who wants to become a police officer will be turned down.


In view of the fact that:

-  when Armenia joined the Council of Europe in January 2001 it undertook to adopt legislation on alternatives to military service and at the same time to free conscientious objectors, but so far no such legislation has been adopted nor have the conscientious objectors been released;

-  on 13 December 2002 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of Europe (ECRI) deemed the Armenian authorities’ attitude towards Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘unsatisfactory’;

-  the European Union has an excellent economic and commercial cooperation relationship with Armenia,


can the Commission say whether it is aware of the facts outlined above and what measures, in the context of cooperation relations, might constitute a serious and effective means of inducing Armenia to respect religious freedom?