European Committee of Social Rights condemns long substitute services

The European Committee of Social Rights has repeatedly dealt with the issue of the length of substitute service - especially in the cases of Greece and Finland. In recent years, it has taken up the issue on its own in several conclusions on country reports. We publish the relevant parts below (thanks go to the European Buereau for Conscientious Objection):

Estonia

"The Committee previously noted that legislation provided for alternative service to compulsory military service, but sought further clarification on the length of such alternative service. In December 2004 the length of alternative service was reduced to between 12 months (minimum) and 18 months (maximum) and is (according to other sources1) currently set at 16 months duration. Military service lasts between eight months (minimum) and 11 months (maximum).

The Committee recalls that under Article 1§ 2 the duration of alternative service may not exceed one and half times the length of military service. The Committee notes that according to the information available to it alternative service may amount to double the length of military service. The situation is therefore not in conformity with the Revised Charter on this point."

(http://www.coe.int/t/e/human_rights/esc/3_reporting_procedure/2_recent_conclusions/1_by_state/Estonia2006_en.pdf)

Finland

"Under the Military Service Act the length of military service is either 180, 270 or 362 days. According to the report the majority of conscripts perform at least 270 days (52.3 %) and 47.7 % perform 180 days. The duration of unarmed military service is 330 days and alternative civilian service 395 days.

The Committee has previously found that the situation is not in conformity with the Revised Charter on the grounds that the length of alternative service was more than double the length of compulsory service performed by the majority of conscripts (at that time 64,2 % of conscripts performed 180 days of military service. Although the situation has altered slightly during the reference period ,(see above), the Committee notes that it has only altered slightly and that the length of civilian service remains more that double the minimum period of military service which is under taken by almost half of all conscripts.

Therefore the Committee maintains that the length of alternative civilian service remains a disproportionate restriction on a worker’s right to earn a living in an occupation freely entered upon."

(http://www.coe.int/t/e/human_rights/esc/3_reporting_procedure/2_recent_conclusions/1_by_state/Finland2006_en.pdf)

It has to be noted that since this conclusion has been published, Finland reduced the length of substitute service, but not sufficiently. The service has been shorted to 11 month from 1 January 2008 on.

Greece

"Since the case of Quaker Council of European Affairs v. Greece Complaint No. 8/2000 decision on the merits 25 April 2001 Greece has been found to be in breach of Article 1§ 2 on the grounds that the length of service alternative to military service is excessive. The legal regulations governing alternative military service have been amended over the years, although in its previous conclusion the Committee noted that the length of alternative service was still excessive in that it usually represented more than double the length of compulsory military service.

New legislation on this issue has again been introduced during the reference period; those who serve alternative civilian service instead of the average military service (or unarmed military service) are now liable to serve 23 months, instead of 30 months as was set previously (those who serve reduced armed service of nine months are now liable for 17 months instead of 25; those who serve reduced armed service of six months are now liable for 11 months instead of 20 and those who serve reduced armed service of five months are now liable for 3 months instead of 15). The length of full-armed military service is set at twelve months.

The Committee notes that the new legislation provide for a significant reduction in the length of alternative service; however it recalls that under Article 1§ 2 the duration of alternative service may not exceed one and half times the length of military service and consequently the situation in Greece can not be considered as being in conformity with Article 1§ 2 of the Charter."

(http://www.coe.int/t/e/human_rights/esc/3_reporting_procedure/2_recent_conclusions/1_by_state/GreeceXVIII1_en.pdf)

Moldova

"According to the report the length of alternative service is 24 months, while the length of military service is 12 months.

The Committee recalls that under Article 1§ 2 the duration of alternative service may not exceed one and a half times the length of military service. The Committee therefore finds that the situation is not in conformity with Article 1§ 2 of the Revised Charter."

(http://www.coe.int/t/e/human_rights/esc/3_reporting_procedure/2_recent_conclusions/1_by_state/Moldova2006_en.pdf)