Azerbaijan: Conscientious objector claim rejected

Although Azerbaijan introduced the constitutional right to conscientious objection in a referendum 2 years ago, an appeal court in Baku rejected the claim of a conscientious objector on 16 September. Jehovah's Witness Mahir Bagirov was called up in 2000, but wrote to the recruitment office that he wishes to perform alternative service because of his faith. He was then again called up in May 2004. On 9 June, he lodged his suit at Baku's Khatai district court, artguing that the call up was unconstitutional. Article 76 part 2 of the constitution of Azerbaijan states: "If the beliefs of citizens come into conflict with service in the army then in some cases envisaged by law alternative service instead of regular army service is permitted". However, such a law has not been passed yet.

As part of Azerbaijan's commitments to the Council of Europe, the country changed the constitution in 2002 to allow for conscientious objection. But a law has not been passed, and the draft is still being discussed in the parliament.

Source: Forum 18 News Service, 6 October 2004