CO-Update No 58 is a little longer than usual. Conscription is being discussed in many countries - either to be abolished, to be introduced, or - in the case of Germany - to again not be decided about. In these discussions it often becomes clear that conscription is about more than just military recruitment - it is close linked to issues of gender, the nation state, and so on.
With Serbia, the last country of the former Yugoslavia is abolishing conscription. Radio Srbija reported on 16 July that from 1 January 2011 on, Serbia will have fully professional armed forces. According to an interview of Minister of Defence Dragan Sutanovac with Ekonom:east Magazine, the plan is to have 10600 professional soldiers and 2000 places for those who wish to serve voluntarily. According to the report of Radio Srbija there are already 8,000 applications, of which 1,600 (20%) are from women.
The Kuwait Times reported on 15 July that Kuwaiti politicians and government officials are currently discussing the possibility of reintroducing a period of mandatory military service for male citizens aged between 21 and 30. Such a system would see all able-bodied men in this age group compelled to serve for one year with the Kuwaiti military, while it may also be made optional for women in the same age group.
According to several reports, Hamas is discussing to introduce conscription in Gaza later in 2010. WorldTribune.com reported on 29 July that Hamas, intent on expanding its military, is preparing to institute mandatory military service. According to the same report, officials said the Hamas government and military were discussing a conscription programme to significantly expand security forces in the Gaza Strip. They said that in the first stage military service would remain voluntary.
Already in 2006, War Resisters' International reported on plans to introduce conscription in Cambodia, which so far did not materialise (see CO-Update No 24, November 2006). It remains to be seen if the new announcement by a senior Cambodian Defence Ministry official on 1 August 2010 that the ministry is poised to introduce a military conscription soon after the military reservist conscription sub-decree was signed by the king, is more real.
A new discussion about the future of conscription has flared up in Germany. Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg argues that conscripted troops are costly and of little use to the modern German military, or Bundeswehr, now focused on far-flung foreign missions to hot spots such as Afghanistan. The six-month stint that young German men are required to serve is too short for highly skilled military training, security analysts say. Conscripts also can't serve abroad, so many end up working in kitchens or at desk jobs.
During its 99th session, the Human Rights Committee examined the periodic report of Estonia. The issue of conscientious objection only came up briefly. The issue had been raised by War Resisters' International in a report to the Human Rights Committee. Regarding the issue of alternative service in lieu of military service and conscientious objection, the Committee asked if the delegation could inform it of the criteria used to determine approval for alternative service because the information provided in the report suggested that very few applicants were approved for alternative service.
During its 99th session, the Human Rights Committee also examined the periodic report of Israel. Again, also the issue of conscientious objection came up. The Israeli delegation said that in the matter of conscientious objections, it did not have the statistics available at hand on the number of cases approved. The burden of proof was on the objector, but it was difficult to say what the burden of proof was because it was hard to determine what was in a person’s heart and mind and whether they were lying.
During its 99th session, the Human Rights Committee also considered the periodic report of Colombia. On the issue of conscientious objection, the Colombian delegation was requested to provide more particulars on conscientious objectors and what protections were in place for them until the law concerning this matter was adopted. The Committee referred to the ruling of the Constitutional Court, had handed down nine months ago, but there was still no written ruling.
The No-to-NATO-coalition organizes a manifestation, counter-conference and actions of civil disobedience. The official agenda contains approval of the new Strategic Concept, a decision on NATO's involvement in missile defence.
There are also discussion on actions of civil disobedience before or during the NATO summit.
Contact: War Resisters' International