- Court rules in favour of police officer after he was dismissed for being a member of a religious group
- Decision will have a positive impact on public employees of faith
YEREVAN (22 June 2020) – The Administrative Court in Armenia has upheld the right to freedom of religion in a precedent setting case. It concerns a decorated police officer who was dismissed for being a member of a religious group. The Court found the dismissal to be invalid and ruled that the police officer must be reinstated to his job and compensated for the entire period of his forced leave starting in 2018. The ruling could have a significant impact on the religious freedom of public servants across the country. ADF International supported the case of the police officer.
“Nobody should be forced to choose between their profession and their faith. This decision is a positive step in the right direction to protect the right of public servants in Armenia to hold a religious belief. 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. It sends the message that people of faith should be the subject of suspicion when, so often, it is faith that drives individuals to incredible acts of service. The precedent set in this decision secures freedom of religion for police officers and could have an impact on public servants all over Armenia,” said Lidia Rieder, Legal Officer for ADF International.
Freedom of religion in Armenia
Edgar Karapetyan was dismissed from his position as a senior lieutenant in the police in Armenia in late 2018. He had served in the police force since 2001, receiving a number of awards. His employers fired him because of his membership of an evangelical church. He was told he could keep his job if he renounced his faith. Karapetyan refused and was 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 an absolute ban on membership of a religious organization for police officers was unconstitutional. This case was highlighted in the 2019 International Religious Freedom Report prepared by the US Department of State Office of International Religious Freedom.
Though the right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution of Armenia, minority religions can face difficulties registering and are targeted as ‘sects’.
“This officer was faced with an impossible choice. Nobody should have to renounce their faith in order to keep their job. 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 the right to freedom of religion,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International.