The Council of Europe and the Right of Conscientious Objection

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Resolution 337 (1967) on the right of conscientious objection
The Assembly

Having regard to Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which binds member States to respect the individual freedom of conscience and religion Declares
A. Basic principles

1. Persons liable to conscription for military service who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction arising from religious, ethical, moral, humanitarian, philosophical or similar motives, refuse to perform armed service shall enjoy a personal right to be released from the obligation to perform such service.

2. This right shall be regarded as deriving logically from the fundamental rights of the individual in democratic Rule of Law States which are guaranteed in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
B. Procedure

1. Persons liable for military service should be informed, when notified of their call-up of the rights they are entitled to exercise.

2. Where the decision regarding the recognition of the right of conscientious objection is taken in the first instance by an administrative authority, the decision taking body shall be entirely separate from the military authorities and its composition shall guarantee maximum independence and impartiality.

3. Where the decision regarding the recognition of the right of conscientious objection is taken in the first instance by an administrative authority, its decision shall be subject to control by at least one other administrative body, composed likewise in the manner prescribed above, and subsequently to the control of at least one independent judicial body.

4. The legislative authorities should investigate how the exercise of the right claimed can be made more effective by ensuring that objections and judicial appeals have the effect of suspending the armed service call-up order until the decision regarding the claim has been rendered.

5. Applicant should be granted a hearing and should also be entitled to be represented and to call relevant witnesses.
C. Alternative Service

1. The period to be served in alternative work shall be at least as long as the period of normal military service.

2. The social and financial equality of recognized conscientious objectors and ordinary conscripts shall be guaranteed.

3. The Governments concerned shall ensure that conscientious objectors are employed in social work or other work of national importance – having regard also to the manifold needs of the developing countries.

This looks humiliating to you? But in Macedonia for the first time the right of conscience objection was mentioned in 2001. I want to say something about this. In Macedonia since 2001 more and more people are interested in Alternative Service. In the beginning most conscientious objectors (COs), who were interested in this alternative service, were labeled by other people as gays, cowards and traitors. Most of the people here don’t know anything about this kind of alternative service, though this is a human right and everyone has the right to choose what kind of serving they want to do.

There is an NGO in Macedonia called Peace Action that started with seminars, and CO education. I was a part of it and I want to say that there are very interesting things to learn. Now, activists from different towns in Macedonia are trained to help people who are interested in being COs.

Macedonian administration is not very strict with the rules. There are some failures in fulfilling the Resolution obligations. For example; the length of Alternative Service is 4-months more than the military service; there are not too many institutions for serving in, you can serve just in the hospitals, fire departments, or where you can do humanitarian work.
But we, the activists are preparing some requests for the Ministry of Defence to increase the number of places where conscientious objectors can serve. Some European countries that have already canceled out or that will cancel out the compulsory military service:

Country –  Right of Objection by Law – End of Military Service

Belgium – 1964 – 1995

France – 1963/1983 – 1999

Hungary –  1989 –  2005

Ireland –  There was not military service

Italy – 1972 – 2007

Luxemburg – 1963

Netherlands – 1922 – 1996

Slovenia – 1991 – 2002

Spain – 1978/1984 – 2001

UK – 1916 – 1960

These are countries that have a military system

Country –  Right for Conscience Objection by Law

Cyprus – There is no right of conscientious objection

Czech Republic – 1992

Danish Republic – 1917

Estonia – 1994

Finland – 1931

Germany – 1949/1956

Greece – 1997

Latvia – 1997

Lithuania – 1990

Poland – 1988

Portugal – 1976/1998

Slovakia – 1992

Sweden – 1920

Macedonia – 2001(2003)

Serbia and Montenegro – 2003

Croatia – 1991/1998

Bulgaria – 1998

Ukraine – 1996

Bosnia and Herzegovina – 1996(2001)

[FYEG calls for in the Peace bit of its Political Platform Article 4.1 In principle any forced service must be abolished. ED]
So this is how the conditions look throughout Europe. So I think that nearly everyone can use the right, which is given to everyone. So use your right and fight for peace!

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