Submission to the 95th Session of the Human Rights Committee:
military service in Croatia was suspended with effect from the
beginning of 2008. In the event of its reintroduction in time of war
or national emergency, the provisions of the 2003 Law on Civilian
Service would again apply.1
In many respects these provisions came close to the best
international standards. There were no time limits on the lodging of
applications - whether before or during military service, or
subsequently as a reservist. Applications which met rather minimal
criteria with regard to the grounds stated were accepted without
further investigation. Like other countries in the region, Croatia
retained an ill-conceived clause which debarred anyone who had ever
held a firearms licence from being recognised as a conscientious
and it might have been questioned whether the discrepancy between six
months’ military service and eight months’ alternative civilian
service was objectively justified, but in isolation these are
relatively minor quibbles.
Two residual issues remain:
for military service, and medical examination to determine fitness
for such service, have not been suspended. In such circumstances it
always seems illogical that those registering should not have the
opportunity, if they so choose, to declare conscientious objection to
military service at this stage rather than that in the short term
they should feel obliged - in however small a way - to compromise
their principles; - and in the longer term that the mobilisation
system should at what might be a time of extreme urgency be clogged
up with the processing of such applications.
importantly, having progressed to completely “professional” armed
forces, Croatia has apparently not yet confronted the possibility
that a member of such forces might develop a conscientious objection.
Exactly what would be the situation of a service-man or -woman who
sought early release on these grounds? Given its good credentials in
other respects, Croatia might usefully be encouraged to join those
States which have made formal provision for such an eventuality.
30th December, 2008.
Stolwijk, M., The Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe: A
Review of the Current Situation, Quaker Council on European
Affairs, Brussels, 2005, p