War Resisters' International learned today that Belarusian conscientious objector Dzmitry Smyk, 23, from the city of Homel, has been charged for not joining the army.
Dzmitry Smyk, a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, was officially charged on 8 October with avoiding mandatory military service. Draft evasion is punishable by a fine or up to two years' imprisonment, if committed after administrative punishment was imposed.
Dzmitry Smyk told Radio Free Europe that his religious faith does not allow him to serve in the military, adding that he would be happy to serve in any other service as an alternative to the military.
"If I became a soldier that would break the oath I gave to almighty God; the Bible does not allow me to be a soldier, but that does not mean that I want to avoid service, I am ready to do anything else," he said in the Homel courtroom, according to Radio Free Europe.
Dzmitry Smyk insists that according to the Belarusian Constitution he has the right to choose an alternative, noncombatant service. The right to conscientious objection is enshrined in Article 57 of the 1994 Constitution, according to which: "Procedures regulating military service, and the grounds or conditions for exemption from military service or its replacement by alternative service, shall be further regulated by law".
No further legislation on conscientious objection has ever been introduced.
The trial will continue on 19 October 2009.
War Resisters' International calls for protest letters to President Alexander Lukashenko, or to Belarusian embassies abroad.
President of Belarus,
ul Karla Marksa 38
Republic of Belarus
A protest email can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/node/8942.
War Resisters' International calls on the Belarusian authorities to recognise the right to conscientious objection and to drop the charges against Dzmitry Smyk.
War Resisters' International