ADF International

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Armenia: Constitutional Court declares religious ban for police officers unconstitutional

Summary

  • Constitutional Court pronounces the ban as unconstitutional, case now continues at Administrative Court
  • Broad implications for public employees of faith

YEREVAN (7 May 2020) – Should your faith bar you from a career in public service? A decorated police officer in Armenia was dismissed from his job for being a member of a religious organization. The Constitutional Court of Armenia recently ruled that the provision on which this decision was based is unconstitutional. The case, which was suspended while the Constitutional Court decided on the constitutionality of the ban, will now continue at the Administrative Court. ADF International supported the case of the police officer.

“Nobody should be forced to choose between their profession and their faith. Dismissing someone from their job simply because of what they believe is a violation of their fundamental rights. The kind of blanket ban challenged in this case forces faith underground and sends the message that people of faith should be the subject of suspicion when, so often, it is someone’s faith that drives them to incredible acts of service. This decision sets a precedent that will benefit those of all faiths and none in living in accordance with what they believe,” said Lidia Rieder, Legal Officer for ADF International.

Freedom of religion in Armenia

Edgar Karapetyan was dismissed from his position as a senior lieutenant of the police in Armenia in late 2018. He had served in the police force since 2001, receiving a number of awards. He was told that he was being fired because of his membership of a religious organization and that he would be allowed to keep his job if he renounced his faith. Karapetyan refused and was then dismissed. He filed his case at the Administrative Court which questioned the constitutionality of the rule that had allowed for his dismissal. The Constitutional Court ruled that it was unconstitutional and Karapetyan’s case will now continue at the Administrative Court.

Though the right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution of Armenia, minority religions can face difficulties and are targeted as ‘sects’.

“Nobody should be forced to renounce their faith in order to keep their job. This kind of choice is not just impossible but also unlawful. The right to freedom of religion is a fundamental right which is protected in every major human rights treaty. We welcome this decision which ultimately upholds that right,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International.

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Faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.