Sweden: An end to conscription

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On 19 March, the Swedish government announced that Sweden will end conscription as part of a package of military reforms. With this move, a tradition of more than 100 years of conscription will come to an end. "Staff support will be modernized so that voluntary service constitutes the foundation for the staffing of the force instead of compulsory military service," the defence ministry said in a statement. Ministry spokeswoman Sofia Krigsman said the government planned to shelve the draft in mid-2010 and bring it back only if the country's security situation worsened. Sweden will instead rely on a part-volunteer, part-professional military.

According to the present system, most conscripts undergo military service of 2 periods totalling around 11 months. However, only 8 000 people out of an annual cohort of 120,000 Swedish citizens are called in to carry out military service. Sweden recognises the right to conscientious objection for conscripts. However, with the discussion about an end of conscription, and the low rate of call-up for military service, the numbers of conscientious objectors went down. While more than 2,000 people applied for conscientious objection every year until the mid-1990s, in 2005 and 2006 there were only 160 and 128 CO applications. The institutions providing non-military basic training for conscientious objectors in Sweden are already closing down due to lack of funds. As a consequence, conscientious objectors in Sweden cannot get basic training and do a substitute service, and will be placed in the “training reserve”.

Sweden so far does not recognise the right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers. It is unclear if the reforms will include this right for professional soldiers.

Source: Sweden to scrap century-old draft, Ottawa Citizen, 19 March 2009; War Resisters' International: Country report and updates: Sweden, 28 October 2008

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