Country report and updates: Kazakhstan

Last revision: 28 Apr 1998
28 Apr 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription is enshrined in art. 31 of the 1995 Constitution, which states: "Defence of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the duty of every citizen of the republic. The citizens of the republic perform military service as laid down by law."

The present legal basis of conscription is the 1992 Military Service Act.

military service

All men above the age of 18 are liable for military service.

The length of military service is two years. [5]

Reserve obligations apply. According to a March 1995 government decree conscripts automatically enter the reserve forces on completion of military service. It is not known what reserve duties actually entail. [8]

postponement and exemption

Postponement is possible for students.

Exemption is possible for medical and domestic reasons, and in the case of 'persons in holy orders in one of the registered religious orders' (art. 16 of the Military Service Act). [3]

Exemption from military service under art. 16 of the Military Service Act is evidently seldom granted. In 1996 only six individuals are thought to have been exempted. It is not known how many people apply for exemption on religious grounds under art. 16. [5]


Call-up for military service takes place at the age of 18.

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognized and there are no provisions for substitute service.

According to art. 22 of the 1995 Constitution: "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of conscience". The second clause of article, however, stipulates that "The right to freedom of conscience must not specify or limit the universal human and civil rights and responsibilities before the state".

There are no known plans to introduce legislation on conscientious objection and substitute service. The government stated in 1994: "The State is elaborating a bill in which it intends to introduce regulations, clearly recognizing that this Act does not fully meet the recommendations of the Commission on Human Rights." The Act referred to is the 1992 Military Service Act, in particular art. 16 according to which exemption from military service is permitted for certain religious believers. (see postponement and exemption). However, in 1994 the government also stated: "The Republic of Kazakhstan cannot currently afford to exempt citizens from military service on grounds of religious or moral convictions." [1]

Several Jehovah's Witnesses have openly refused to perform military service. According to the Kazakhstan American Bureau of Human Rights in 1996, prosecution of members of certain religious faiths, in particular Jehovah's Witnesses, for refusing to serve in the army, is a continual problem. [4]

There are few known details about individual cases of prosecuted COs. In 1995, two Jehovah's Witnesses were sentenced to imprisonment for refusing to perform military service. [11]

In 1994, Roman Grechko, also a Jehovah's Witness, was initially sentenced to a year's imprisonment under art. 66 of the Criminal Code, by the district court of Almaty. In October 1994 he was released by the city court. [2] [3]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Draft evasion and desertion are punishable under the Criminal Code by five to seven years' imprisonment. [5]


Draft evasion and desertion are widespread. In 1995, for instance, about 40 per cent of all liable conscripts were believed to have evaded the draft in one way or another. [5]

Reasons for draft evasion and desertion include poor conditions and human rights violations within the armed forces. In 1996, for example, more than 3,000 criminal offences were recorded within army units, and in 1997, 196 conscripts were believed to have died while performing military service. [5] [7]

The government has made stern pronouncements on the punishment of draft evasion and desertion. A May 1995 government decree called on the Ministry of Interior and the procurator-general to prosecute all those who evaded military service. [8]

A 1994 report suggests 1,000 soldiers, who had gone absent without leave, had been prosecuted by military tribunals during the previous 18 months. According to this report, 2,500 deserters had been detained and a further 500 were still on the run. Military regiments are themselves responsible for catching draft evaders and deserters. [6]

In May 1997 the Ministry of Defence announced that young conscripts would in future be allowed to perform military service in their home areas, this being an attempt to improve morale and discipline of the armed forces and reduce draft evasion and desertion. [7]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 35,100-strong, that is 0.22 percent of the population. [9]

Every year approximately 154,400 young men reach conscription age. [9]


[1] UN Commission on Human Rights 1994. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/84 (and Addendum). United Nations, Geneva. [2] Amnesty International 1993. Concerns in Europe: November 1992 - April 1993. AI, London. [3] Amnesty International 1994. Concerns in Europe: May - December 1994. AI, London. [4] Kazakhstan-American Bureau on Human Rights and the Rule of Law 1996. The Human Rights Situation in Kazakhstan: January - October 1996. [5] Soros Foundation - Kazakhstan 1998. Responses to CONCODOC enquiry, 15 & 16 January 1998. [6] 'Kazakh soldiers desert in their thousands'. ITAR-TASS news agency (World Service), Moscow, 4 July 1994. [7] 'Conscripts to serve in their home regions'. ITAR-TASS news agency (World Service), Moscow, 3 May 1997. [8] DIRB, 5 December 1995. [9] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Kazakhstan

03 Oct 2012

Kazakhstan will introduce universal military training for all adult citizens, according to a government decree published on 2nd August.

"The goal of universal military training of citizens is to attract the population to civil defence activities, prepare for necessary contingencies, and build up the armed forces in the period of martial law," the document said.

Training will be compulsory for males aged 16 to 60 years, and women between 18 and 45 years who are childless or whose children are older than 10 years.

01 Nov 2002
by Silke Makowski

In the region of Caucasus and Central Asia, no country offers a free choice between military service and alternative service, most of them even having no legal basis for a substitute service at all. The few states that passed a law on some kind of alternative service haven't implemented it according to international standards: in Georgia, substitute service isn't available in practice and in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, large bribes are necessary to perform it.

We have had a kind offer from an individual donor, who will match up to £5,000 of donations from others - so by supporting War Resisters' International today your donation is worth double!