17 October 2019, 23:48
ECtHR supports refusal of Azerbaijani Jehovah's Witnesses* to serve in army
Azerbaijani courts violated the principle of freedom of conscience by sentencing to imprisonment five Jehovah's Witnesses* who refused to serve in the army, announced the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The Azerbaijani authorities are obliged to pay the complainants the compensation of more than 38,000 euros and develop a law on alternative service.
Mushfig Mamedov, Samir Guseinov, Farid Mamedov, Fakhraddin Mirzoev, and Kyamran Mirzoev refused to serve in the army due to their religious convictions. They asked the authorities to give them the opportunity to take an alternative service, but were refused. All five persons were recognized by a court in Azerbaijan as men avoiding the army service and were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment from six months to a year. The ECtHR recognized the sentence as a violation of freedom of conscience.
Khalid Agaliev, a lawyer at the Media Rights Institute, noted that the right to alternative service is guaranteed by the Constitution of Azerbaijan. However, the parliament has not adopted such a law, since "the country is at war with Armenia, and under such conditions every man should serve in the army."
Recently, no information about the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses* in Azerbaijan has been reported, notes Elshan Gasanov, the head of the Centre for Monitoring Political Prisoners.
In 2017, the US Department of State and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) reported a violation of the rights of religious minorities in Azerbaijan, including Jehovah's Witnesses*.
*396 Russian organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses are recognized as extremist in Russia, and their activities are prohibited.
Author: Faik Medjid; Source: CK correspondent