Human Rights Watch report on Russian conscription in occupied Crimea


Contrary to international humanitarian law, Russian continues conscripting men in Crimea to serve in the Russian armed forces. Human Rights Watch has reviewed dozens of judgments from Crimean courts on criminal draft evasion cases and identified 71 criminal draft evasion cases and 63 guilty verdicts between 2017 and 2019.

Russia carries out draft campaigns twice a year, in the spring and autumn. Since the occupation of Crimea started in 2014, nine conscription campaigns have been carried out. The last started on October 1st 2019, and it was intended to continue until December 31, 2019. Every man between 18 to 27 years old who has taken Russian citizenship and has not performed military service in another country is eligible for compulsory military service. Under Russian law, draft evasion is penalized and as a criminal offense is punishable by a fine (between approximately US$77 and $1,000) or up to two years in prison.

Human Rights Watch, based on data provided by Russia’s Defense Ministry, estimates that, since Russia occupied Crimea, about 18,000 to 18,900 have been conscripted by Russian authorities. In spring 2019 at least 3,300 men from Crimea were enlisted and for the fall of 2019 was planned to enlist a total of 132,00 men, including about 2,600 from Crimea.

Human Rights Watch analyzed court data for Crimea for 2017, 2018, and 2019 and identified 71 criminal draft evasion cases and 63 guilty verdicts. It is likely that the number of these cases is higher as not all of them have been made public. According to the report “most judgments reviewed state that the accused were acting with ‘criminal intent of evading military service’ by either failing to appear for military medical certification or failing to appear at the military base to begin service. In most judgments, courts requested that the accused’s personal military conscription files be returned to the local draft commission office, apparently for future enlistment.”

Russian authorities have carried out advertising campaigns for enlistment in many cities in Crimea and have provided military propaganda in schools in Crimea. The Fourth Geneva Convention (to which Russia is a party) states that an occupying power may not force residents of the occupied territory to serve in its armed forces and explicitly prohibits any pressure or propaganda to secure voluntary enlistment.    

Read the full report here.

Source: Human Rights Watch, Crimea: Conscription Violates International Law, 3 December 2019. 

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