- The end of conscription in Croatia also meant the end of conscientious objection. Croatia does not recognise the right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers.
On 4 October 2007, the Croation government decided to suspend conscription from 1 January 2008 on. However, conscription is only suspended. According to the decision of the Croatian government, which is based on article 39a of the Defence Law, the suspension of conscription does not apply in cases of emergency or war, or if the Armed Forces cannot carry out their duty.
Conscription also remains in article 47.1 of the Croatian constitution, which reads: “Military service and the defence of the Republic of Croatia shall be the duty of every capable citizen of the Republic of Croatia”.
According to the law, registration for conscription of Croatian young males continues. The local
military offices also continue to invite young men to a medical examination, which establishes whether a person is fit for military service or not.
Every citizen of Croatia between 18 and 30 years can apply for a voluntary military service, which lasts 14 weeks.
After someone successfully finishes this service, it is possible to join the Croatian Armed Forces as a professional soldier.
The first group of soldiers in voluntary military service will begin their service on 5 October 2008. For 250 positions, about 1274 persons applied, among them 147 women.
The majority of applications came from the eastern part of Croatia, a region with high unemployment. The wages offered for voluntary military service are about 2 660 Kn (about €360), which is roughly equivalent to the minimum wage, but means solid money compared to unemployment. In addition to the wages, refund of travel costs for going to and leaving the place of service, basic and additional medical insurance, insurance for injuries at work, accommodation and food are covered too.
Conscientious objection for conscripts
With the suspension of conscription, conscientious objection is also suspended. However, should conscription be reactivated, the laws and regulations on conscientious objection will also be in force again.
The right to conscientious objection is enshrined in Article 47.2 of the 1990 Constitution, according to which: "Conscientious objection shall be allowed to all those who, for religious or moral beliefs, are not willing to participate in the performance of military duties in the armed forces. Such persons shall be obliged to perform other duties specified by law."
There are no time limits for submitting CO applications. Applications can thus be made before,
during and after military service, by both serving conscripts and reservists.
Applications must be made to the Civil Service Commission (Ministry of Justice). Since the
introduction of the Law on Civilian Service in 2003, applications are not individually examined and there is no personal interview with the applicant. The applicant must state in his written application that he has religious or moral reasons for conscientious objection, but he does not need to explain his reasons in detail. Consequently, almost all applications are automatically granted.
Applications may be rejected if the applicant does not clearly state he refuses military service for moral or religious reasons, if he has been convicted for a criminal offence or if he possesses weapons (Law on Civilian Service, Article 13).
Further legal provisions on conscientious objection are laid down in the Law on Civilian Service,
which was passed by the Croatian Parliament in February 2003 and entered into force in May 2003.
In 2007, only 2 051 of a total of 25 130 potential recruits carried out the compulsory six months of military service as up to 10 000 of the recruits who get called up each year apply for conscientious objection and perform a substitute service.
Conscientious objection for professional soldiers
Croatia does not recognise the right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers.
If someone serving voluntary military service wants to leave before the end of the 14 weeks, he or she will need to repay all expenses to the Ministry of Defence (articles 25 & 26 of the rules about voluntary military service).
Nothing is presently know about the regulations governing professional soldiers.
Draft evasion and desertion
For draft evasion (not responding to call-up) military disciplinary measures, including fines or
imprisonment for up to 60 days, may be prescribed (art. 187 & 188 Defence Law).
Chapter 18 of the Basic Criminal Code of the Republic of Croatia (Offences against the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia) prescribes penalties for draft evasion and desertion:
- failure to respond to mobilisation call-up: maximum one year's imprisonment in peacetime; one to 10 years in wartime (art. 166, paragraph 1);
- hiding within the country in order to avoid mobilisation: 3 months to 5 years in peacetime; 5 to 10 years in times of threatened war.
- leaving the country to avoid mobilisation: one to 10 years in peacetime; 5 to 20 years in wartime times of threatened war.
Nothing is presently know about practice.