Rights of conscientious objectors in Ukraine threatened


Institute of Religious Liberty, 9 February 2016


A legislative initiative of the president of Ukraine for a more efficient draft of Ukrainian citizens into compulsory military service may make the actual exercise of the constitutional right of believers for alternative (nonmilitary) service impossible. This is the conclusion to which experts came after an analysis of draft law No. 4020, which Petro Poroshenko introduced into parliament on 4 February 2016, the Institute of Religious Liberty reports.


The proposed changes not only permit the head of state to determine the timing of conducting a draft (drafts) of Ukrainian citizens into compulsory military service without advance publication in news media. In addition it rescinds the rule that the corresponding order is published for the period of a new year and must be published no later than one month before the end of the current year.


However, draft law No. 4020 does not accord with the requirements of part 1 of article 9 of the Ukrainian law "On alternative (nonmilitary) service." At present, believers who are conscripted must personally submit to the local government a written application for assignment to alternative service no later than two calendar months before the beginning of the specified period for conducting the draft into compulsory military service.


"Simply put, if the Ukrainian president's order about the period of the draft in 2016 were to be published, for example, one month before its start, the believing Ukrainian citizens will be formally deprived of their constitutional right to substitute alternative service for military duty," Maksim Vasin, the executive director of the Institute of Religious Liberty, noted.


The expert says that the problem of the inconsistency of draft law No. 4020 with the Ukrainian law "On alternative (nonmilitary) service" can be resolved only by means of correction and substitution before its consideration by the parliament on first reading.


It should be noted that according to the law, Ukrainian citizens have the right to alternative service if performance of military duty contradicts their religious convictions and these citizens belong to religious organizations whose teaching does not permit the use of weapons and which are functioning in conformity with Ukrainian law.


A problem with the unannounced establishment of the periods of the regular draft first arose in 2015. Last year President Poroshenko issued the corresponding order 2.5 months later than prescribed by law. Such a delay created an impediment to the exercise by believing citizens of the right to alternative service during the spring draft.


In connection with this, the Institute of Religious Liberty prepared an explanation of the procedure for directing believing citizens into alternative (nonmilitary) service instead of compulsory military service. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 February 2016)

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