Country report and updates: Romania
- Romania abolished conscription in 2007. It is unclear whether the right to conscientious objection is recognised for professional soldiers.
- With the change of the constitution to abolish conscription, also the provisions for a
substitute service for conscientious objectors have been abolished.
Romania abolished conscription in peacetime in 2007, based on law 395/2005 “regarding the suspension of conscription during peacetime and the transition to a voluntary military service”1.
However, conscription can be easily introduced in times of war or an emergency. According to Article 55 of the Romanian constitution, “citizens have the right and duty to defend Romania” and “may be conscripted from the age of 20 up to the age of 35”2.
According to the law, Romanian male citizens still have to report to the military authorities upon
turning 18, to register and for the establishment of their abilities in case of the reintroduction of conscription as outlined in Article 3 of the law.
The Romanian Armed Forces recruit professional soldiers based on Law 384/2006 “on the status of voluntary soldiers”. According to the law, volunteers initially sign a contract for up to four years, which can be extended by two or three years up to a maximum age of 403.
Conscientious objection for conscripts
Until 2007, when Romania still had conscription in peacetime, Romania recognised the right to
conscientious objection for conscripts. The right to conscientious objection was regulated by the 1996 Law on the Preparation of the Population for Defence (1996/46) and the 1997 Government Decree 'As regards the way of execution of the alternative service law according to the provision of Article 4 from Law 46/1996' (618/1997).
Only religious grounds for conscientious objection were legally recognised. According to Article
4 of the 1996 Law: "Citizens who, for religious reasons, refuse military service under arms shall perform alternative utilitarian service, according to present law". The grounds
for recognition were further restricted by Article 6.3 of the 1997 Government Decree, which stated that the right to conscientious objection only applies to "members of religious groups that
do not allow the discharge of military service under arms".
The religious groups concerned were named in a list that is made by the State Secretariat for Religious Denominations. The list includes the Pentecostals, Adventists, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses.
There also was a strict time limit for submitting CO applications. Applications had to be made within 15 days of receiving call-up papers. Applications could thus not be made by serving conscripts or reservists4.
With the revision of the constitution by Law 429/2003 the relevant article dealing with substitute service has been abolished.
Conscientious objection for professional soldiers
It is not clear what regulations apply for the conscientious objection of voluntary soldiers. Before conscription was suspended in peacetime, serving conscripts, professional soldiers, and reservists had no right to conscientious objection.
According to the Romanian Embassy London, a “voluntary soldier can cancel the contract at any time by resignation”. However, if a soldier has attended professional training programmes that lasted more than 90 days, and they wish to leave before two years after completion of the training, then the costs of these trainings have to be paid back5
– making it almost impossible to leave prematurely.
Draft evasion and desertion
The offence of desertion as stipulated and sanctioned in Article 332 of the Penal Code is
applicable to any member of the armed forces absent without any reason from his military unit or duty for more than three days. The action is punished with prison from 1 to 7 years (Law 80/1995 on the Military Personnel Status). The commander of the specific military unit must initiate penal action against an individual. However, penalties depend on the circumstances (alleviating or aggravating). In the case of desertion, if the absence is strongly motivated by objective reasons, this can be used to defend the accused6.
of Romania: Response to War Resisters' International, 28 February
of Romania: Response to War Resisters' International, 28 February
Office: Romania. Country Report, 2004. Country Information and
Policy Unit, Immigration and Nationality Directorate,
In this presentation I will give an overview of the right to conscientious objection, its
legal practices and frameworks in the 27 European Union member states. Before I do so, I want to step back a bit and have a brief look at the existing international standards about the right to
conscientious objection, as these standards allow us to put the practices in the EU member states into a perspective.
Service required to replace military service
Service to replace military service
In its previous conclusions, the Committee considered that the situation was not in conformity because the length of the alternative service to military service, 24 months instead of 12, was excessive. It took the view that the additional 12 months, during which the persons concerned were deprived of the right to earn a living through freely undertaken work, went beyond reasonable limits in relation to the length of military service.
Romania is the latest country which finally ended conscription. The transformation into fully professionalised forces in order to comply with NATO standards had been planned for some time. Since the 1990s, the size of the Romanian armed forces and the number of conscripts had been reduced significantly. In 2003 the Constitution was in fact amended in order to allow for the abolition of conscription.
Romania is the next country in South-East Europe to follow the trend to end conscription. In Romania too this is part of a project to modernise the military, and has little to do with disarmament. According to a report by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), Bucharest has agreed to transform its army from a Wassaw Pact mammoth into a lean, mobile force that is compatible with NATO's needs. Romania joined NATO in 2004, and also has troops in Iraq as part of the Coalition of the Willing.
The right to conscientious objection is derived from Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and seen as a manifestation of the freedom of religion and belief. The then CSCE stressed the right to conscientious objection in paragraph 18 of the Document of the Copenhagen meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension in June 1990.The UN Commission on Human Rights stressed the right to conscientious objection in several resolution, most recently Resolution 1998/77, 2000/34, 2002/45. The Council of Europe also stresses the right to conscientious objection, especially in resolution 337 (1967) and recommendations 1518 (2001), R (87) 8, and 816 (1977).