BELARUS: Conscientious objector Ivan Mikhailov sentenced to three months imprisonment


War Resisters' International has been informed by Forum 18 News Service that conscientious objector Ivan Mikhailov from Belarus has been sentenced to three months imprisonment by a court in the Belarusian capital Minsk on 1 February 2010.

Ivan Mikhailov is a Messianic Jew, and refuses to perform military service based on his religious beliefs. He was arrested on 15 December 2009, after the Minsk District Military Commissariat rejected his repeated appeals to be allowed to do do a substitute civilian service.

Article 57 of the Belarusian constitution recognises the right to conscientious objection. It reads:

"(1) It shall be the responsibility and sacred duty of every citizen of the Republic of Belarus to defend the Republic of Belarus.
(2) The procedure governing military service, the grounds and conditions for exemption from military service, and the substitution thereof by alternative service shall be determined by law.

In May 2000, the Constitutional Court of Belarus decided twice that a law on substitute civilian service should be passed to allow individuals who have a conscientious objection to military service to do a substitute service. On 26 January 2010, Pyotr Miklashevich, chair of Belarus' Constitutional Court, said in a press conference that the country should adopt a law on substitute civilian service. He pointed out that the Constitutional Court already decided twice back in 2000 that a Law should be adopted to put individuals' constitutional right to alternative service into practice," Court Press Secretary Vasily Seledevsky told Forum 18 on 1 February (see F18News 18 January 2010). "This remains the position of the Constitutional Court."

In November 2009, the Central District Court of the south-eastern city of Gomel fined Jehovah's Witness Dmitry Smyk 3,500,000 Belarusian roubles (£760) under article 435, part 1 of the Criminal Code. He was also banned from leaving the country and traveling within the country without notifying the authorities. He lost two appeals, and is now considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of Belarus.

War Resisters' International calls for protest letters of protest to the Belarusian authorities, and embassies abroad. A protest email can be sent at

War Resisters' International calls on the authorities of Belarus to immediately release conscientious objector Ivan Mikhailov, and to recognise the right to conscientious objection.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International