Conscientious Objection to Military Service: Issues for the Country Report Task Forces - REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA


Submission to the 95th Session of the Human Rights Committee: March 2009


Second Periodic Report of the Republic of Moldova contains no mention
of arrangements for implementing the right of conscientious objection
to military service. However the report submitted in April 2008 to
the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the Optional Protocol
to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children in armed
conflict1 mentioned in passing the existence of a new Law2 on Civilian Alternative Service. The state party should be
encouraged to provide details of the extent to which this Law has
remedied the shortcomings of previous legislation in this area.

Historical background

Republic of Moldova inherited from the Soviet Union a system of
obligatory military service with a universal male liability between
the ages of 18 and 24, Spring and Autumn recruitments each year
leading to 24 months of service. The 1992 Military Service Law
reduced the duration of obligatory military service to 18 months; the
2002 Law on Preparation for Defence reduced this further to 12
In fact, however, the universality of the military service
obligation relates only to the requirement to register, which is done
at the age of 16, and upon which the citizen acquires the formal
status of “recruit”.4
The number of “recruits” actually called up each year has in
recent years remained consistently just over 4,000 as opposed to
something over 30,000 who are nominally liable.5
There is no readily-available information about how the selection is
actually made in practice. (The 13% or so of the population who live
in the Trans-dneister region are of course not currently accessible
to the Moldovan recruitment authorities. However it is reported that
the de facto administration in this region imposes
conscription of 18 months under a “Law” promulgated in 2005, and
that there is a 22% enforcement rate, which although low, is much
higher than in Moldova as a whole. Ironically, it is reported that
many men from Transdneistria avoid military service there by
relocating to Ukraine or the part of Moldova under Government
control, where the requirement is less onerous.)6
At the time of the 2002 reforms there was discussion of the
possibility of abolishing conscription altogether, but this proposal
was rejected. Despite the low enforcement rate of obligatory
military service, conscripts account for some 70% of the manpower of
the Moldovan army.

The Law
on Alternative Service, No. 633/1991, represented the first provision
for conscientious objectors to military service. At no point does
that Law explicitly refer to the concept of conscientious objection,
but its purpose, as stated in Article 1, is to reconcile civic duty
with “the citizen’s right to freedom of thought, conscience,
religion and belief” in accordance with international standards.
As amended in by Law No. 534 of 22nd July 1999, this
represented the state of provision for conscientious objectors to
military service until the coming into force of the 2007 Law. The
provisions of the Alternative Service Law after the 1999 revision
were outlined in the Initial Report of the Republic of Moldova under
the ICCPR, in the section relating to Article 8 (forced labour).7

Unsatisfactory aspects of the Alternative Service Law after the 1999 revision

not in a position to comment on the 2007 Law, except to express the
hope that it corrects a number of shortcomings of earlier Moldovan
legislation in this field, and to encourage the Human Rights
Committee to investigate whether this is indeed the case. These
shortcomings were:

Recognition apparently confined to members of specific groups. Article 3 of
the Law defines acceptable grounds for recognition as “religious or
pacifist beliefs”; Article 14 requires that applications be
accompanied by “proof of membership of the religious or pacifist
organisation”. This implies that recognition is granted solely on
the grounds of membership of specific organisations, whereas
conscientious objection by definition springs from the individual
conscience and may be grounded in a wide variety of different
beliefs, not necessarily requiring or entailing formal membership of
any specific group.

It is
that applications which fulfil the required criteria are not the
subject of individual investigation. However it is not known that
any list of qualifying organisations has been made public. On the
other hand, it is not surprising that the language of the Law should
have encouraged those liable to conscription to seek membership of
recognised pacifist organisations, an apparent abuse against which
the authorities reportedly found it necessary to bring specific

and punitive duration of alternative service.
Under Article 6 of
the Law, the length of alternative service was set at 24 months. At
the time, the duration of military service was 18 months, and there
was no clear justification of the discrepancy. Moreover, there was
nothing in the Law to link the duration of altenative service to that
of military service, with the result that when the latter was reduced
to 12 months in 2002 the prescribed length of alternative service was
exactly double that of military service. In the course of the
examination by the Human Rights Committee of the Initial Report of
the Republic of Moldova, the State delegation replied to questions on
this subject that the duration of alternative service was now the
same as military service, namely 12 months.10
This was not however supported by other contemporaneous reports.11
It is to be hoped that if indeed inaccurate this represented a
statement of intent to equalise the two lengths and that this is now
enshrined in the 2007 Law, but confirmation of this would be welcome.

arrangements for alternative service .
Although the
legislation was not entirely clear, it seems that the administrative
costs of the system were to be met by a levy of 20% on the
remuneration of those performing alternative service, who thus
received only 80% of the salary of those performing military service.
This was interpreted by some analysts as indicating that those
performing alternative service simply continued to perform their
previous job but passed some of their salary to the State, but it
seems quite clear from Paragraph 225 of the Initial Report that in
fact alternative service placements were in the same sort of
institutions as elsewhere. The salary deduction is however a further
discriminatory and punitive feature which, it is to be hoped, will
have been eliminated from the 2007 Law.

30th December, 2008.


CRC-C-CAC-MDA-1, Para 18.

Law No. 156-XVI of 6 July 2007 on the Organization of Civilian
(Alternative) Service

Stolwijk, M., The Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe: A
Review of the Current Situation
, Quaker Council on European
Affairs, Brussels, 2005, p 47.

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers
Global Report 2008
(London, 2008) p.233

The Military Balance 2007 (International Institute for
Strategic Studies, London), p 170

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers
Global Report 2008
(London, 2008) p.234

CCPR/C/MDA/2000/1, Paras 214 - 229.

Reply by the Republic of Moldova to the questionnaire on “best
practices concerning the right of everyone to have conscientious
objections to military service”, circulated by the Office of the
High Commissioner on Human Rights, 2003.

Stolwijk, M. 2005, op cit


Stolwijk, M. 2005, op cit

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