Bosnia-Herzegovina: Republika Srpska


1 Conscription

conscription exists

Not much is known about the conscription system in the Republika Srpska. The legal basis for conscription was probably the Defence Law of the former Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. On 28 December 1996 a new Army Law was passed, and proposals for a fresh law on defence were discussed in early 1997. [9] [10]

military service

The length of military service is 9 months. It was reduced from 18 months with the passing of the new 1996 Army Law. [10]

During the war, general mobilisation was proclaimed, affecting all residents of areas under Bosnian-Serb control. All men aged 18 to 55 were liable for military service and all people were mobilized for civil defence duties and compulsory work. After Croatia's military take over of the Krajina region in 1995, there was a general labour mobilisation for women to replace the men who were in the armed forces. [5]

postponement and exemption

No information is available on the regulations on postponement and exemption. It has evidently been possible for some people, particularly those living abroad, to buy themselves out of the armed forces. [9]


No recent information is available.

During the war, the Bosnian-Serb authorities had many problems in recruiting soldiers. Draft evasion and desertion were evidently high and many draft evaders and deserters fled to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Refugees who fled to the FRY were still at risk of being forcibly recruited there, as the FRY authorities cooperated over recruitment for the Bosnian-Serb armed forces. Refugees at FRY territory, in particular draft evaders and deserters, were forcibly recruited in the streets or even in refugee camps. As a result, refugees of conscription age were often reluctant to apply for refugee status as they feared this would bring them to official attention. [13]

In June 1995 there was a major forced recruitment of refugees and even FRY citizens with a Bosnian background. Unlike former mobilisations in which only war refugees (draft evaders and deserters) were recruited, all men aged 18 to 60 born or originating in Bosnia, regardless of citizenship or refugee status, were recruited. Even FRY citizens who had worked just for a few years in Bosnia were recruited. This forced recruitment was carried out by the FRY police, either in uniform or without. The FRY-border checkpoint personnel have willingly co-operated over registering all male refugees and noting their military background. [1] [5]

2 Conscientious objection

There is no legal provision for conscientious objection.

The new 1996 Army Law mentions that in future substitute service will last for 12 months. [10]

Further details are not known.

3 Draft evasion and desertion


The Criminal Code of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia applies to draft evasion and desertion, which means that they are punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment, and by death in war time. [9] [11]

(For details of the relevant articles see the report of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.)


No information is available on the scale of draft evasion and desertion since the 1995 Dayton peace agreement.


The Dayton peace agreement (annex 7) foresaw an amnesty for returning refugees who are accused of certain crimes related to the armed conflict. [11]

On 12 February 1996 the Bosnia-Herzegovinan Assembly passed a amnesty law, which came into force on 23 February 1996. The law provides an amnesty for certain crimes committed before 14 December 1995 - however the war officially ended 22 December 1995. Although this RBiH amnesty law applies to the entire territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in fact it is not recognised in the Republika Srpska.

In order to comply with the Dayton peace agreement the Republika Srpska parliament passed an amnesty law on 19 June 1996, but its provisions did not apply to the offences draft evasion and desertion. Consequently, in spite of the RBiH amnesty law, it is likely that draft evaders and deserters have been imprisoned after February 1996. There is no information on the numbers involved or individual cases. [9] [11]

during the war

Draft evasion and desertion were widespread. Many fled to the FRY, but the FRY authorities assisted the Srpska authorities in forcing the refugees back (see above).

In July and August 1993 alone the military court in Banja Luka convicted some 1,000 draft evaders and deserters, who were sentenced to up to 5 years' imprisonment. In mid-1995, sentences as heavy as 8 years' imprisonment were reported. [9]

According to the state prosecutor in 1994, 1,300 men had been condemned for desertion or draft evasion. [6]

Unconfirmed reports even spoke about death penalties and executions of deserters. According to many reports, paramilitary forces such as the Serbian Volunteer Guard (led by Arkan) were also punishing deserters. [13]

6 Annual statistics

No information available.


[1] UNHCR 1995. Situation of draft evaders/deserters from Former Yugoslavia. UNHCR, Geneva. [2] MIR 1995. Conscientious Objection in Bosnia. Mouvement International de Reconciliation, Brussels, Belgium. [3] Amnesty International 1994. AI Concerns in Europe: November 1993-April 1994. AI, London. [4] Information from the Danish Refugee Council, 20 October 1995. [5] Women in Black 1995. Various reports. Women in Black, Belgrade. [6] European Civic Forum 1994. Deserters and draft resisters in the present situation in former Yugoslavia. [7] Rosa, C. 1996. Update ex-Yu as of April 1996. EBCO, Brussels. [8] Friedrich, R. 1994. Situation im ehemaligen Jugoslawien - Kriegsdienstverweigerung, Rekrutierung und Kriegseinsatz. Connection e.V., Offenbach, Germany. [9] Amnesty International 1997. Out of the margins, the right to conscientious objections to military service in Europe. AI, London. [10] Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Swiss newspaper), 30 December 1996. [11] German Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1997. Bericht über die asyl- und abschiebungrelevante Lage in Bosnien und Herzegowina. Auswärtiges Amt, Bonn. [12] Women to Women 1998. 'News from Sarajevo', in: Conscientious objection and asylum in Europe, Connection e.V., Offenbach. [13] Aleksov, Bojan 1998. 'Draft evasion and desertion', in: Conscientious Objection in Europe, Connection e.V., Offenbach.


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