Azerbaijan: conscientious objection only with long substitute service

The Azerbaijani Parliament believes that the introduction of a substitute service for conscientious objectors may cause youth to divert from serving in the army in the country.

Therefore, alternative service should be long-term and its terms should be more difficult than the army service to prevent people to divert from the military service under some pretexts,” Safa Mirzayev, the head of the Azerbaijani Parliament’s Administration, said at a news conference on 27 September.

Azerbaijan undertook an obligation to adopt a law on conscientious objection, when it joined the Council of Europe (CE) in 2001. However, the obligation has not yet been implemented.

It is not difficult to adopt the Law on Alternative Service, Mirzayev said. The public attitude and different people is too important for this matter.

The term of military service gradually becomes shorter in Europe. The term is six-month in most countries. Only people, who do not join the military service for their conviction, pass to an alternative service in Europe. They participate in public services, renovation of hospitals and cities. The attitude towards military service is different in Azerbaijan because of the war condition. Therefore, we should not implement this task as Europeans,” Mirzayev said according to Trend News.

According to Mirzayev, there are only very few conscientious objectors in Azerbaijan who do not want to perform military service out of deeply held convictions. A substitute service should be more difficult than the military service and the Law should reflect this character, he said.

Local and international experts do not agree with my position and say that it does not meet the international standards. However, the Law on Alternative Service will be adopted in any case and form,” the head of the Azerbaijani Parliament’s Administration said according to Trend News.

This new announcement follows an earlier statement of Gultakin Hajiyeva, member of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and MP, who said on 24 July that "This Bill must be discussed in Milli Majlis (the Azerbaijani parliament). If some MPs insist on passing this Bill, some terms will be set forth for it to take effect, that is, the alternative military service will not be introduced in Azerbaijan unless the occupied lands of Azerbaijan are freed."

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe nevertheless passed a new resolution, demanding, among others, that "the law on alternative civilian service should be adopted without further delay, in line with Azerbaijan's accession commitment" (Resolution 1614 (2008), 24 June 2008).

While it now looks likely that Azerbaijan may pass a law on conscientious objection in the near future to releave international pressure, this law is highly unlikely to comply with international standards.

Sources: Trend News: Alternative Service Can Divert Youth from Army in Azerbaijan, Says Head
of Parliament Administration
, 27 September 2008, TrendNews: Azerbaijani Delegation in PACE Opposes Fulfillment of Some Obligations Before Council of Europe, 25 July 2008, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Resolution 1614 (2008), 24 June 2008