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Conscientious Objection to Military Service: Issues for the Country Report Task Forces - REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA

Submission to the 95th Session of the Human Rights Committee: March 2009

Summary

The Second Periodic Report of the Republic of Moldova contains no mention of arrangements for implementing the right of conscientious objection to military service. However the report submitted in April 2008 to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children in armed conflict1 mentioned in passing the existence of a new Law2 on Civilian Alternative Service. The state party should be encouraged to provide details of the extent to which this Law has remedied the shortcomings of previous legislation in this area.

Historical background

The Republic of Moldova inherited from the Soviet Union a system of obligatory military service with a universal male liability between the ages of 18 and 24, Spring and Autumn recruitments each year leading to 24 months of service. The 1992 Military Service Law reduced the duration of obligatory military service to 18 months; the 2002 Law on Preparation for Defence reduced this further to 12 months.3 In fact, however, the universality of the military service obligation relates only to the requirement to register, which is done at the age of 16, and upon which the citizen acquires the formal status of “recruit”.4 The number of “recruits” actually called up each year has in recent years remained consistently just over 4,000 as opposed to something over 30,000 who are nominally liable.5 There is no readily-available information about how the selection is actually made in practice. (The 13% or so of the population who live in the Trans-dneister region are of course not currently accessible to the Moldovan recruitment authorities. However it is reported that the de facto administration in this region imposes conscription of 18 months under a “Law” promulgated in 2005, and that there is a 22% enforcement rate, which although low, is much higher than in Moldova as a whole. Ironically, it is reported that many men from Transdneistria avoid military service there by relocating to Ukraine or the part of Moldova under Government control, where the requirement is less onerous.)6 At the time of the 2002 reforms there was discussion of the possibility of abolishing conscription altogether, but this proposal was rejected. Despite the low enforcement rate of obligatory military service, conscripts account for some 70% of the manpower of the Moldovan army.

The Law on Alternative Service, No. 633/1991, represented the first provision for conscientious objectors to military service. At no point does that Law explicitly refer to the concept of conscientious objection, but its purpose, as stated in Article 1, is to reconcile civic duty with “the citizen’s right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief” in accordance with international standards. As amended in by Law No. 534 of 22nd July 1999, this represented the state of provision for conscientious objectors to military service until the coming into force of the 2007 Law. The provisions of the Alternative Service Law after the 1999 revision were outlined in the Initial Report of the Republic of Moldova under the ICCPR, in the section relating to Article 8 (forced labour).7

Unsatisfactory aspects of the Alternative Service Law after the 1999 revision

CPTI is not in a position to comment on the 2007 Law, except to express the hope that it corrects a number of shortcomings of earlier Moldovan legislation in this field, and to encourage the Human Rights Committee to investigate whether this is indeed the case. These shortcomings were:

Recognition apparently confined to members of specific groups. Article 3 of the Law defines acceptable grounds for recognition as “religious or pacifist beliefs”; Article 14 requires that applications be accompanied by “proof of membership of the religious or pacifist organisation”. This implies that recognition is granted solely on the grounds of membership of specific organisations, whereas conscientious objection by definition springs from the individual conscience and may be grounded in a wide variety of different beliefs, not necessarily requiring or entailing formal membership of any specific group.

It is reported8 that applications which fulfil the required criteria are not the subject of individual investigation. However it is not known that any list of qualifying organisations has been made public. On the other hand, it is not surprising that the language of the Law should have encouraged those liable to conscription to seek membership of recognised pacifist organisations, an apparent abuse against which the authorities reportedly found it necessary to bring specific legislation.9

Discriminatory and punitive duration of alternative service. Under Article 6 of the Law, the length of alternative service was set at 24 months. At the time, the duration of military service was 18 months, and there was no clear justification of the discrepancy. Moreover, there was nothing in the Law to link the duration of altenative service to that of military service, with the result that when the latter was reduced to 12 months in 2002 the prescribed length of alternative service was exactly double that of military service. In the course of the examination by the Human Rights Committee of the Initial Report of the Republic of Moldova, the State delegation replied to questions on this subject that the duration of alternative service was now the same as military service, namely 12 months.10 This was not however supported by other contemporaneous reports.11 It is to be hoped that if indeed inaccurate this represented a statement of intent to equalise the two lengths and that this is now enshrined in the 2007 Law, but confirmation of this would be welcome.

Funding arrangements for alternative service . Although the legislation was not entirely clear, it seems that the administrative costs of the system were to be met by a levy of 20% on the remuneration of those performing alternative service, who thus received only 80% of the salary of those performing military service. This was interpreted by some analysts as indicating that those performing alternative service simply continued to perform their previous job but passed some of their salary to the State, but it seems quite clear from Paragraph 225 of the Initial Report that in fact alternative service placements were in the same sort of institutions as elsewhere. The salary deduction is however a further discriminatory and punitive feature which, it is to be hoped, will have been eliminated from the 2007 Law.

30th December, 2008.

Notes

1 CRC-C-CAC-MDA-1, Para 18.

2 Law No. 156-XVI of 6 July 2007 on the Organization of Civilian (Alternative) Service

3 Stolwijk, M., The Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe: A Review of the Current Situation, Quaker Council on European Affairs, Brussels, 2005, p 47.

4 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 (London, 2008) p.233

5 The Military Balance 2007 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, London), p 170

6 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 (London, 2008) p.234

7 CCPR/C/MDA/2000/1, Paras 214 - 229.

8 Reply by the Republic of Moldova to the questionnaire on “best practices concerning the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service”, circulated by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, 2003.


9 Stolwijk, M. 2005, op cit

10 CCPR/C/SR/2030

11 Stolwijk, M. 2005, op cit

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