Actively support conscientious objection, in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine!

Actively support conscientious objection, in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine!

16. Juni 2023
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Warum ist diese Petition wichtig?

Gestartet von Thomas Krings

Deutsch | Русский | Уркаин

All three states have severely restricted the right to conscientious objection and thus violate international law. Men and women in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine must have the opportunity to refuse to serve at arms and thus to kill other people without being sanctioned for it. We expect the eforcement of this right, particularly in Ukraine, which is supported by the Western states, but also in Russia and Belarus,. Likewise, we expect the support of the EU and Germany for war resisters from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

  • We demand from the politicians of the EU and the German government the opening of the borders, and protection and asylum for conscientious objectors and deserters from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

Ukrainian conscientious objectors face prison sentences of several years in their country. We appeal to the Ukrainian government to stop the persecution of conscientious objectors and grant them the right to conscientious objection.

  • For deserters and conscientious objectors from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, there is still no legally binding admission regulation in the EU to protect these people, despite all political declarations of intent to the contrary. We demand an EU-wide admission regulation to provide them with training and employment. 

Both Russian and Belarusian conscientious objectors face prison sentences of at least several years in their respective countries. We appeal to the Russian and Belarusian governments to stop the persecution of conscientious objectors and grant them the right to conscientious objection.

In particular, we appeal to the Russian government to immediately cease the practice of preventing members of the frontline troops from escaping by shooting them which is now apparently being practiced.·

signed Green Alternative Peace*Justice*Democracy

The right to conscientious objection is indisputably one of the fundamental human rights. It is not explicitly mentioned in the UN Charter of Human Rights, nor is it included in multilateral human rights treaties, with the exception of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. However, the Human Rights Committee, an expert body that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, clearly states that conscientious objection is protected by the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and has made this clear in decisions on individual cases,[1] as well as in General Comments and Concluding Observations. In addition, the (previous) UN Commission on Human Rights has adopted a number of resolutions on conscientious objection[2] and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention as well as the Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief of the UN Human Rights Council have also addressed this issue. 

Belarus, Russia and Ukraine have different regulations on conscription, the right to conscientious objection, and military draft evasion and desertion. In none of the three countries is the human right to conscientious objection implemented in the way demanded by various international bodies and the European Court of Human Rights.

For example, the application procedure would have to be available for an unlimited period of time, i.e. even during or after military service, the decision on an application should be made independently and impartially, and the application process must be open to all persons affected by military service. In addition, alternative service must not have a punitive character, for example, due to a significantly longer period of service.[3]

Current situation:
According to information Connection e.V.[4] : 

BELARUS: On July 1, 2016, a law on alternative service went into effect. It provides that only young men with a religious pacifist refusal can apply for alternative civilian service, but not those men who base their conscientious objection on a non-religious pacifist conviction.

In addition, alternative service is twice as long as military service (36 months in general or 24 months for those with higher education). And those doing alternative service receive less pay than those doing military service. In addition, soldiers and conscripts who have already completed military service are not eligible for recognition as conscientious objectors.

In Belarus, evasion of military service and desertion are punishable under Articles 435, 437, 445, 446 and 447 of the Criminal Code. Evasion of military service is punishable by a fine or up to three months' imprisonment. Circumvention of compulsory military service shall be punishable by a fine or up to two years' imprisonment if committed after the imposition of an administrative penalty. Desertion and evasion of military service by mutilation or other means shall be punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to seven years.

RUSSIA: Compulsory military service is enshrined in Article 59 of the 1993 Constitution. The duration of military service is twelve months. All men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to perform military service. The obligation to perform reserve service applies until the age of 50. 

Article 59 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation recognizes the right of every citizen to refuse military service. In 2002, the Federal Law "On Alternative Civilian Service" was adopted, which solidified this right. The duration of alternative service is 18 months.

Persons serving in the military, whether as conscripts or professional soldiers, cannot apply for conscientious objection, although the Russian Constitution does not impose any restrictions in this regard.

The law establishes a procedure under which an application for alternative service must be submitted to a military commissary six months before the enlistment campaign in which the applicant is expected to be drafted into the army. Most applications are rejected because this deadline is missed. In addition, applications are reviewed by committees of military commissariats.

Discharge from military service and desertion are punishable by law. Discharge from military service is punishable by a fine, three to six months' imprisonment or up to two years' imprisonment (Article 328). Desertion is punishable by up to seven years' imprisonment, or up to ten years in the case of armed conflict or collective desertion (Article 336). Escape from a unit is punishable by up to six years' imprisonment or, in disciplinary battalions, up to two years' imprisonment (Article 337).

UKRAINE: Ukraine has now suspended the right to conscientious objection. Some conscientious objectors have already been given long suspended prison sentences.

Compulsory military service was reintroduced in Ukraine in 2015. The duration of military service is 18 months. In February 2022, the government under President Zelensky announced the general mobilization of all men between the ages of 18 and 60. In addition, this group of people was prohibited from leaving the country. Since the right to conscientious objection is limited in Ukraine and cannot be exercised by all, the ban on leaving the country, and thus the compulsion to comply with the mobilization, violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as noted, for example, by Amy Maguire, Associate Professor in Human Rights and International Law, in early March 2022. It also violates the 4th Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that every person "shall be free to leave any country, including his own."

According to Article 35(3) of the 1996 Ukrainian Constitution, there is a right to conscientious objection: "If the performance of military service is contrary to a citizen's religious beliefs, the service obligation shall be fulfilled by alternative service." This is more precisely defined in Article 2 of the Alternative Service Law. According to it, only religious conscientious objectors belonging to ten specific denominations listed in the government decree can apply for conscientious objection in Ukraine: Reformed Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists, Evangelical Christians, Evangelical Baptists, Pokutnyky, Jehovah's Witnesses, Charismatic Christian Churches, Christians of the Evangelical Faith, and the Krishna Consciousness Society. This means Orthodox Christians, who form the very largest faith community, are not allowed to refuse military service.

The right is further restricted by the rule that an application must be submitted within six months of enlistment. In addition, soldiers and reservists have no right to apply.

From January to November 2020, 3,361 criminal cases were registered against conscientious objectors under Articles 335-337 and 407-409 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, including 18 cases of self-mutilation. In 2019, 190 conscientious objectors and deserters were detained for similar offenses, 117 were arrested, 24 were placed in disciplinary battalions, and 380 were fined by courts, according to the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection.

Desertion and evasion of military service may be punished by imprisonment of up to three years in accordance with Articles 335 and 336 of the Criminal Code.

On February 5, 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law that sets out particularly sharp ways in which the army can respond to disobedience, defiance or insubordination to the commander, use of force, and leaving the combat position. The law states, "In a combat situation, the commander may make use of the weapon or issue orders to subordinates to use it if there is no other way to stop the violation." Thus, according to Newsweek magazine, commanders "may shoot deserters or insubordinates."

Information booth of the federal german government
According to the federal government's answer of 28.4.2023 to a question by Sevim Da?delen, Clara Bünger, Andrej Hunko, other members of parliament and the parliamentary group DIE LINKE, the situation is as follows[5] :  

Russia: In Russia, the right to conscientious objection or replacement of military service with alternative civilian service is enshrined in Article 59 of the Russian Constitution. According to paragraph 3 of this provision, every citizen has the right to perform alternative civilian service instead of military service if the performance of military service is contrary to his or her convictions or religious beliefs. This possibility is solidified by the law on alternative civilian service. In principle, everyone has the constitutional right to conscientious objection. In Russia, applications for conscientious objection are submitted to the relevant military commissariat. Decisions on applications are made by the draft board. According to media reports, Russian authorities have repeatedly ignored legally defined exceptions in their conscription practice.  

Belarus: In Belarus, compulsory military service is mandatory for all men between the ages of 18 and 27. The Belarusian constitution provides for alternative civilian service. Conscientious objection and performance of alternative civilian service can be applied for in accordance with legal regulation of July 1, 2016, only if the religious convictions of the conscript or reserve service member are incompatible with the oath of allegiance to the flag, the carrying and use of weapons, and direct involvement in the handling of weapons and ammunition. To the knowledge of the German government, there are no possibilities for recognition as conscientious objectors for conscripted (before entering service), active soldiers and reservists. In Belarus, a muster commission at the military commissariats makes the decision on replacing military service with alternative service. 

UKRAINE: According to the Ukrainian conscription law, conscripts may be deferred from regular military service by decision of the military district commissions for family and health reasons, as well as for reasons of education and continuation of their professional activity. The right to perform military service without the personal use of weapons on the basis of membership in a particular religious group derives from Article 35 of the Ukrainian Constitution. Conscientious objection on religious grounds is possible insofar as those concerned can present a certificate of membership in a religious community prohibiting the use of weapons.  

On criminal sanctions for persons who do not have recognized status as conscientious objectors, it states: 

Among other things, under Article 339 of the Russian Criminal Code, anyone who evades compulsory military service during a mobilization is punishable by imprisonment for five to ten years. For details, please refer to the Russian Criminal Code.  

Among other things, under Article 434 of the Belarusian Criminal Code, anyone who refuses to participate in conscription measures during mobilization is punishable by two to seven years' imprisonment. For details, please refer to the Belarusian Criminal Code.  

Among other things, Article 336 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code punishes those who evade conscription to military service during mobilization with imprisonment for three to five years. For details, please refer to the Ukrainian Criminal Code.   

Due to the general mobilization in Ukraine since February 24, 2022, adult males under the age of 60 who hold Ukrainian citizenship may only leave Ukraine with an exceptional permit. Currently, 179,751 male Ukrainians between the ages of 18 and 60 are residing in Germany. As of Jan. 31, 2022, there were 39,507; more recent figures through Feb. 24, 2022, are not available.[6]

Ukraine's State Border Service reported on December 30, 2022, that 12,000 men had attempted to leave Ukraine illegally since February 24, 2022. In this context, more than 2,100 criminal cases had been initiated since the beginning of the war: more than 430 of them for illegal border crossing, 1,650 for document forgery, and more than 20 for draft evasion.[7] and

The First Additional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights entitles individuals from states that have ratified both the Protocol and the Covenant to complain to the Human Rights Committee about violations of the Covenant. As of April 2011, 113 states had ratified the Protocol.

Image source: War Graves Memorial World War I , Verdun, September 2021, (c) GrüneAlternative e.V. in foundation, Karl-W. Koch

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