Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, on his mission to the Republic of Moldova (1 – 8 September 2011)


Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt


Mission to the Republic of Moldova


E. Conscientious objection to military service

51. According to article 10 of the 2007 Law on Religious Denominations, the State is required to establish by law alternative service for the citizens who cannot perform military service due to confessional reasons. A provision for alternative service was first enshrined in Law No. 633/XII of 9 July 1991on alternative service adopted, as amended by Law No. 534 of 22 July 1999. Law No.156-XVI, adopted on 6 July 2007, further revised the organization of civilian (alternative) service. The new law addressed several concerns raised by the earlier one: it reduced the length of alternative civilian service from 24 to 12 months, equal to that of the military service; alternative civilian service could now be requested on the basis of religious, pacifist, ethical, moral or humanitarian convictions or other similar cases; and the necessity for applications to be accompanied by “proof of membership of the religious or pacifist organization” was abolished. The Ministry of Defence stated that anyone refusing to serve in the military had the option of performing an alternative service. This option was reportedly not connected with any enquiry with regard to the reasons for not wanting to join the military.

52. The 2007 law also established a right for exemption of any form of service for various categories of persons, including clergy, monks and students in theology (art. 4). In this context, the Special Rapporteur was informed of allegations that, in certain circumstances, authorities have been unwilling to recognize that the heads of Jehovah's Witness communities were “clergy” in the sense of the law because, in addition to their roles in the religious community, they hold other jobs. Although there is an increasing tendency to recognize that Jehovah’s Witness heads are “clergy” for the purposes of the law, a non-discrimination approach would imply having this formally recognized at the national level.

53. The situation is markedly more troubling in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova, where regular military exercises are conducted and there is a general requirement to take part in them. If individuals do not show up for such exercises when summoned, they are punished. There is no provision for exemption from service or alternative service in the Transnistrian region. All young men who refuse military service are subject to criminal sanction. There are two possible penalties for refusing to serve: a fine, or deprivation of liberty. The Jehovah’s Witness community raised several recent cases concerning persons refusing to serve in the military in the Transnistrian region on the grounds of conscientious objection. It also reported that men from the Transnistrian region who undertook alternative service in the other parts of the Republic of Moldova were forcibly conscripted into the military in the Transnistrian region or were otherwise arbitrarily detained.

54. The Transnistrian “authorities” told the Special Rapporteur that a compromise offered to conscientious objectors was to serve in the army without direct involvement in the use of weapons. The Special Rapporteur would like, however, to reiterate that everyone has the right to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and that conscientious objectors should be provided with the option of an alternative service that is compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection, of a non-combatant or civilian character, in the public interest and not of a punitive nature.[13] When the right to conscientious objection is recognized by law or in practice, there should neither be differentiation among conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs nor discrimination against conscientious objectors because they have failed to perform military


A. Recommendations for the authorities of the Republic of Moldova


84. The Government should continue to recognize the right to conscientious objection in law and in practice, and ensure that the relevant legislation is implemented in a non-discriminatory manner.


87. The “authorities” of the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova are additionally urged:


(c) To cease without delay practices of detaining persons objecting on grounds of religion or conscience to military service, as well as to develop rules for alternative service for such conscientious objectors;



[13] See Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/77.
[14] See Human Rights Committee, general comment No. 22 (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4).



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