There were reports of abuses of religious freedom in the country, including religious prisoners and detainees.
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, during the year 13 Jehovah’s Witnesses were convicted for evasion of military and alternative service. Eight of those sentenced received a 30-month sentence, four a 24-month sentence, and one a 36-month sentence.
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, 58 of their members remained in prison on December 31 for refusing, on religious grounds, to perform mandatory military or alternative labor service. Jehovah’s Witnesses representatives stated that the prisoners refused the alternative to military service because they objected to the military's control over the alternative service.
On November 11, the Malatia Sebastia first instance court sentenced Andranik Makvetsyan, a Jehovah's Witness, to six months in prison. Makvetsyan was initially investigated and tried on charges of battery, threats, and arrogation over an altercation with a priest of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Artak Artenyan. The court acquitted Makvestyan on the original charges but convicted him of preventing Artenyan’s “right to preach” near a church and his “right to prevent” Makvetsyan from proselytizing. On May 15, Artenyan approached and verbally accosted Makvetsyan after spotting him discussing the Bible on a public walkway in the vicinity of the Holy Trinity Church, where Artenyan served. Artenyan claimed that Makvetsyan hit him once, threatened him, and briefly took his cell phone. The prosecutor declined to open a criminal investigation into Artenyan’s conduct and only pursued charges against Makvetsyan. Artenyan’s final submission to the court said what really mattered was the expectation of millions of Armenians that the court would “prove the antisocial, anti-state, anti-national, and . . . anti-democratic activity” practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country.
On December 23, the International Federation for Human Rights and its member organization, the local Civil Society Institute, released a statement condemning the imprisonment of Andranik Makvetsyan and called upon the Armenian authorities to release him, ensure religious organizations’ freedom to preach, maintain neutrality in religious matters, and promote tolerance in society.
On December 28, the Civil Society Institute submitted an amicus curiae brief to the court of appeal. The brief argued that the conviction unjustly interfered with Makvetsyan's right to express his personal beliefs and violated his religious freedom. At year's end, Makvetsyan remained incarcerated pending the outcome of his appeal.
On July 13 a trial court found a Pentecostal Church pastor, Vladimir Baghdasaryan, guilty of obstructing the professional activities of journalists and fined him 200,000 drams ($520). On November 10, 2010 two journalists from the privately owned pro-government Shant television station entered, without permission, private property where the Pentecostal Church held its gatherings. The journalists started filming inside the building and refused Baghdasaryan's demands to stop filming and leave. According to Baghdasaryan, the journalists insulted those present and left only after Baghdasaryan called the police. The journalists claimed that Baghdasaryan used violence and obstructed their professional activities, while Baghdasaryan stated that he had only covered the camera with his hand and tried to move one of the journalists toward the exit by holding his arm.
Throughout the reporting period, local observers and members of religious minorities reported that negative attitudes toward children involved in religious groups other than the Armenian Apostolic Church continued to be apparent in schools, though at a more subdued level in comparison with previous years. Such attitudes were more apparent during classes on the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which, according to reports, contained elements of religious instruction.
Throughout the year a number of state officials made statements against religious minorities in the country. According to local observers, politicians, as well as media, exploited the issue for their political agenda in advance of national parliamentary elections in 2012.
On October 28, the head of the parliamentary faction of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, Galust Sahakyan, said that sects were more dangerous than Azerbaijan’s threats of war and called for the Armenian Apostolic Church to be strengthened. On May 10, another member of parliament, Hovhannes Sahakyan, said Jehovah’s Witnesses “had not only turned ‘God’s word’ into business but were conducting destructive politics against Armenia.” On March 23, the head of the youth wing of the ruling party, Karen Avagyan, at a roundtable discussion entitled “No to Sects,” said that youth must stand next to the church and fight against the evil of “sects.” In an interview on January 21, another member of parliament, Mkrtich Minasyan, called Jehovah’s Witnesses evil and endorsed a ban on their activities.
On September 29 the secretary of the National Security Council, Artur Baghdasaryan, announced the creation of an inter-agency committee to work on a strategy to fight against destructive and totalitarian sects. He said such “sects” presented one of the most significant threats to national security.
In an August 3 interview, the head of the Government Department on National Minorities and Religious Affairs, Vardan Astsatryan, spoke about the dangers of “sects.” He said that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ active preaching on the streets was unacceptable and should be limited to special areas allocated for them.
There were reports from different religious minority groups that they were unable to rent large halls from private owners for holding meetings. The owners of these facilities either refused to rent the venues or canceled after initial arrangements were made, allegedly after being pressured by the Armenian Apostolic Church or representatives of law enforcement bodies to turn down the requests of “sects.”
For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses reported that a few hours before the start of their convention at a rented auditorium in Vanadzor, the owner refused to honor the contract. Approximately 600 Witnesses planned to attend the three-day convention scheduled for June 10-12. When the Witnesses arrived for the program, the entrance to the auditorium was locked. According to the Witnesses, the owner claimed he had received a telephone call from someone threatening to bomb the facility if it was used by Jehovah’s Witnesses and that he was willing to allow the convention to take place only if he received approval from the authorities. According to the group, the regional governor confirmed that he had called the owner of the convention facility on June 9 and told the owner to “consider the consequences” of renting the facility to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The governor said his comments were not meant as a threat but a warning that violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses could break out at the facility. According to the group, the governor had agreed to notify the owner on the evening of June 10 that the governor’s office had no objection to the convention. However, the owner chose not to provide the facility to the Witnesses for the convention.