Ukraine suspended right to conscientious objection to military service
(05.09.2022) As the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence informed the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement a few days ago, due to martial law the right to conscientious objection existing in Ukraine has been suspended: According to the law, alternative service is a substitute for military service, which must be performed for a limited period of time. Further, the Ministry of Defence wrote: "Due to martial law, since 24.02.2022 the temporary military service in Ukraine is no longer implemented. Therefore, the implementation of alternative service is not applicable." (original document with translation)
"The suspension of the right to conscientious objection in Ukraine is a gross violation of international human rights law," said today Rudi Friedrich of the conscientious objection network Connection e.V. "The UN Human Rights Committee had made it clear in the past that the right to conscientious objection may not be restricted for reasons of national security. Ukraine must abide by this."
In Ukraine, the right to conscientious objection, which existed until the beginning of the war, could only be exercised by persons belonging to one of ten small religious communities, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses or Adventists. With the suspension, they have now been deprived of any opportunity to do so.
Thus, since the suspension of the right to conscientious objection, there have already been convictions of conscientious objectors in Ukraine. For example, in May and June 2022, at least two conscientious objectors were given suspended prison sentences of several years. This became known through the publication of the sentences in the state register on court sentences in Ukraine. Both conscientious objectors had declared their conscientious objection before the Military Commissariat. In one case, he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment suspended for one year; in the other, to four years’ imprisonment suspended for three years. Since both are eligible for re-conscription and still do not wish to perform military service due to their convictions, they are thus threatened with serving the long prison sentence they have already received and with being sentenced again.
According to a recent evaluation by the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, the state register of court decisions also records a number of other cases of convictions under Article 336 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code for draft evasion of military service and similar crimes. Most of the sentences are for 3 years’ imprisonment suspended for one year. From January to July 2022, nearly 5,000 cases were opened for Article 336 and similar crimes, 2,500 more than three months earlier.
Connection e.V. today called on the Ukrainian government to guarantee a human right to conscientious objection accessible to all and to withdraw the convictions issued so far and to close criminal cases opened.
Connection e.V.: press release, September 5, 2022