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Russia: Start of substitute service for conscientious objectors

On 1 January 2004, the repressive Russian law on conscientious objection came into force. As a result, the first ever conscientious objectors required to perform substitute service started their service in July. Around 100 alternativschiki are now working for a punitive term of between 36 and 42 months in state institutions, in the areas of construction, mental health, and military support (obviously not very civilian!).

In its report to the Human Rights Committee, War Resisters' International expressed last year that the Russian regulation on conscientious objection is far from reaching the standards set by the Council of Europe and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In this report, WRI stated: "The first law on substitute service is due to enter into force in January 2004, but is punitive in length with 42 months served in substitute service compared to 24 months in military service. It also fails to protect conscientious objectors against exploitation at their service place such as unlimited working hours, and hard or hazardous labour. Nor does it recognise military personnel's right to declare conscientious objection during or after military service."