Belarus

The Union of Conscientious Objection Finland (AKL) condemns Russia’s war in Ukraine in violation of international law. The Union is concerned that, according to several sources, Russia has used not only contract soldiers but also ordinary conscripts to attack.

There are many shortcomings in the exercise of the right to conscientious objection in Russia, and many of those ordered in the war of aggression are likely to be there against their will. Those ordered and refused military action run the risk of being prosecuted and severely punished in Russia.

In December 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Committee asked Belarus to respond in the case of 33-year-old conscientious objector Dmitry Mozol. In February 2021, a court in Pinsk fined him four months' wages for refusing call-up to reservist military training on grounds of conscience. He failed to overturn the criminal punishment on appeal. The law allows only individuals who have completed alternative civilian service to be exempted from reservist military training. Alternative service was introduced only in 2016, after Mozol was initially called up. Jehovah's Witnesses fear that other young men could also face such prosecution.

In Belarus, a law enabling alternative civilian service for religious COs is due to come in to force on June 1st 2016, but that has not stopped the army from continuously calling up COs to attend military service. Lately, two Jehovah Witnesses, Dmitry Chorba and Viktor Kalina, have been tried in “show trials”, as well as another 5 young men who chose not to go to the army for non-religious reasons. Their hearings took place in front of a selected audience of final year students from a nearby school and newly called up young men who have doubts regarding military service, thus, to deter other young men from refusing military service.

 

A conscientious objector to military service in Belarus has been threatened with conscription, Forum 18 News Service has learned, even though President Aleksandr Lukashenko on 4 June signed into law an Alternative Service Law. But on 11 June Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Dmitry Chorba, from Rechitsa in Gomel Region, had a case under Criminal Code Article 435, Part 1 ("Refusal of call-up to military service") filed against him by the local Military Conscription Office. Although it appears that the case has been closed he fears a renewed call-up in the Autumn.

For more information, see Forum18.org, 'BELARUS: Conscientious objector threatened with conscription', July 2015: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2083

Belarus has for the first time adopted an Alternative Service Law, to take effect from 1 July 2016. The law will allow some - but not all young men - who are conscientious objectors to perform a civilian alternative service, instead of compulsory military service. However only young men with a religious objection will be eligible to apply, not those with non-religious pacifist convictions. It is also unclear whether even all young men with religious objections to military service will be allowed to do civilian alternative service.

Given the sharp increase of repressive measures by the Belarusian government and its security services against the opposition it is currently almost impossible to be socio-politically active. However, for Nash Dom ('Our House' in Russian), a network for the protection of citizens’ rights – which since 2005 has cooperated with the German Bund für Soziale Verteidigung (Federation for Social Defence) – it has become easier to protect activists from state repression in the last couple of years.

As reported on CO-Update No 54, February/March 2010, Belorussian President Lukashenko ordered the drafting of a law on substitute service on 18 February 2010. Following this order, Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky issued an instruction on 31 March 2010 to set up an Interagency Working Group to draft a law on substitute service. The Working Group includes 13 members from different government ministries and agencies, and is to submit a draft to the Council of Ministers by 1 September 2010.

According to the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gave an instruction to develop a law on alternative service. This instruction followed a report on alternative service presented by State Secretary of the Security Council Leonid Maltsev on 18 February.

Military recruitment is not always used for entirely military purposes. Frequently, authorities use military recruitment as a tool to silence opposition activists, as recently happened in Belarus.

Dzmitry Zhaleznichenka, a member of the Belarusian Popular Front, was expelled from the university on January 22, thus becoming eligible for active military service. He was called up for military service when he still was a student and he was shown the expulsion order by the university's representative only at the military recruitment office.

On 22 January, Mr.

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