Download as a pdf

Information submitted by the International Fellowship of Reconcilitation and Conscience and Peace Tax International


Submission to the 115th Session of the Human Rights Committee


(Military service, conscientious objection and related issues)

Updated: September 2015. Contact:


International Fellowship of Reconciliation

Main Representative to the UN, Geneva

Tel: (41) 77 462 9825

SUMMARY: Conscientious objection to military service has been recognised in law for as long as obligatory military service has existed in the modern Austrian state. There are however a number of serious concerns with the details of the current legislative provisions.

The United Nations' Human Rights' Committee have published new concluding observations following the examination of Austria and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as part of the Universal Periodic Review.

The Committee called upon the state of Austria to 'ensure that the length of service alternative to military service required for conscientious objectors is not punitive in nature.'

It demanded that the Republic of Korea:

'(a) Immediately release all conscientious objectors condemned to a prison sentence for exercising their right to be exempted from military service;

(b) Ensure that the criminal records of conscientious objectors are expunged, that they are provided with adequate compensation and that their information is not publicly disclosed; and

(c) Ensure the legal recognition of conscientious objection to military service, and provide conscientious objectors with the possibility to perform an alternative service of civilian nature.

* Adopted by the Committee at its 115th session (19 October–6 November 2015).

Freedom of conscience and religious belief

33. The Committee notes that the length of the civilian alternative service to military service for conscientious objectors is longer than military service and may be punitively long if not based on reasonable and objective grounds (arts. 18 and 26).

32. The State party is encouraged to ensure that the length of service alternative to military service required for conscientious objectors is not punitive in nature.

In January, in a referendum on compulsory military service, nearly 60 percent of Austrians voted to maintain the status quo and maintain conscription, where men have to serve in the army for six months or in the civilian service for nine months when they reach the age of 18. Turnout in the referendum was slightly more than 50%.

On 20 January 2013, the citizens of Austria will be able to decide on the future of conscription in the country in a referendum. At present, it seems impossible to predict the outcome of the referendum - opinion polls differ, and are generally close, with 51:49 results not uncommon - in favour or against conscription.



93.47 Austria does not accept the recommendation.
The option of performing the military service starting at the age of 17 is based solely on the voluntary enlistment of the person concerned and requires the consent of his legal guardian. Neither the direct participation in combat nor the voluntary enlistment for military service in international operations is admissible. Under these provisions, full respect of the entire Convention on the Rights of the Child including its Optional Protocol is guaranteed.




“93.The following recommendations will be examined by Austria which will provide responses in due time, but no later than the seventeenth session of the Human Rights Council in June 2011:


93.47. Raise the age for all enrolments into armed forces to the age of at least 18 years in line with the CRC recommendation (Ghana, Slovakia);”



In this presentation I will give an overview of the right to conscientious objection, its
legal practices and frameworks in the 27 European Union member states. Before I do so, I want to step back a bit and have a brief look at the existing international standards about the right to
conscientious objection, as these standards allow us to put the practices in the EU member states into a perspective.


Placheolder image

Updated February 2016

Download the report as a pdf

Subscribe to Austria