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Turkmenistan: reduced upper age limit for military service

The central Asian republic of Turkmenistan passed a new law on military duty and military service, which reduces the upper age limit for military from 30 to 27 years. The age of conscription remains at 18 years. According to the State News Agency of Turkmenistan, this legislative document provides the definition of the notion of the armed forces and other military divisions, the authorities and official duties of the management staff of the abovementioned bodies in compliance with the provisions of the Military Doctrine of Turkmenistan.

None of the news reports mentions anything about the right to conscientious objection to military service. Turkmenistan regularly imprisons conscientious objectors to long periods of imprisonment, in violation of article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In 2008, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion noted after visiting Turkmenistan: "The Special Rapporteur remains very concerned that conscientious objection is considered as a criminal offence in Turkmenistan. Indeed, according to article 219 of the Criminal code, 'evasion of call-up to military service in the absence of legal grounds to an exemption from this service is punished by corrective work of up to two years or imprisonment of up to two years'. A number of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been detained in the past years for having refused to perform military service due to their religious beliefs."

Turkmenistan's report to the UN Human Rights Committee under the ICCPR, submitted on 11 January, contains just one sentence on alternative service, only to dismiss it (see report CCPR/C/TKM1 - in Russian). "The laws of Turkmenistan make no provision for alternative service," the sentence in Paragraph 337 declares bluntly. It gives no explanation or amplification.

Eurasianet reported on a tragic case of apparent hazing in the Turkmen army at the Officers’ Club in Ashgabat that reportedly led to the suicide of a young soldier. This case is now being investigated by the prosecutor, and army brass have expressed concern about the repercussions.

Sources: Turkemistan.ru: Turkmenistan reduces conscription age limit, 27 September 2010; Central Asia Newswire: Turkmenistan reduces upper age limit for forced military service, 29 September 2010; State News Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH): Meeting of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan, 26 September 2010; Eurasianet.org: Turkmenistan Weekly Roundup, 23 September 2010; Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, Addendum, MISSION TO TURKMENISTAN, 12 January 2009; War Resisters' International: Country report and updates: Turkmenistan, 19 May 1998