Armenian lawmakers on November 17 approved legislation to provide young men who have illegally evaded compulsory military service an opportunity for amnesty if they pay a hefty sum.
The 105-seat National Assembly voted unanimously for the offer as an amendment to an existing amnesty law, in a move that is expected to enable hundreds of young men, who must have turned 27 by December 1, to avoid criminal prosecution and legally return to Armenia.
To qualify for the amnesty, they will have to pay 200,000 drams, or $410, for each conscription period they illegally missed, to a maximum of 3.6 million drams, or some $7,400, for all draft periods.
Ruling Republican Party lawmaker Karine Achemian, who presented the bill in parliament, said the amnesty provision will be in force until December 31, 2019.
The original amnesty law adopted in 2004 has so far been extended eight times, enabling thousands of citizens to return to Armenia. The previous term of the legislation expired in May 2015.
Earlier, the Defense Ministry suggested that the parliament provide such an opportunity for the last time and also raise the cost for taking advantage of the amnesty to at least 9 million drams (approximately $19,000).
But that initiative was rebuffed by the parliamentary committee on defense and security, where it was criticized by committee Chairman Koryun Nahapetian and several other lawmakers affiliated with the Republican Party.
Achemian said the Defense Ministry proposal would have restricted lawmakers’ constitutional right to come up with bills.
Nahapetian said last week that 700 to 800 draft dodgers have been granted amnesty each year since 2004. He also revealed that almost 9,500 men remain on the run on draft evasion charges.