- Conscription is suspended. Little is know about the situation of professional soldiers who want to apply for conscientious objection.
The Dutch Constitution (art. 98) states: "1. The armed forces shall consist of volunteers and may also include conscripts.
2. Compulsory military service and the power to defer the call-up to active service shall be
regulated by Act of Parliament. ".
Formally, conscription exists in the Netherlands, but in 1992 parliament decided to suspend the call-ups. On 29 February 1996 the last conscripts were called up to perform six months' service. After January 1997 there are no more conscripts. The Netherlands armed forces are now completely professional.
However, there is still a law on conscription ('Kaderwet dienstplicht'),
which includes regulations for the compulsory registration of all young male Dutch citizens.
Service of professional soldiers is regulated in the law on military personnel ('Militaire
Ambtenarenwet') from 1931, and the general military personnel regulations ('Algemeen militair ambtenarenreglement') from 1982. Since conscription has been suspended, all branches of the Armed Forces recruit volunteers, and do so using a variety of promotion tools. The Dutch army has its own recruitment website
as has the Air Force (http://www.werkenbijdeluchtmacht.nl/) and the navy (http://www.werkenbijdemarine.nl/).
Little is know about the recruitment practice of the Dutch Armed Forces.
Conscientious objection for conscripts
Conscription is suspended in peace time, but registration for conscription continues. In case
conscription would be enacted again, the right to conscientious objection exists. The right to conscientious objection is enshrined in article 99 of the constitution: “Exemption from military
service because of serious conscientious objections shall be regulated by Act of Parliament”.
Conscientious objection is regulated with Law on conscientious objection to military service of 27 September 1962 (Wet gewetensbezwaren militaire dienst, Stb. 370),
last amended on 1 September 2003.
All conscripts who have been declared fit may apply for CO status. This means that registered
conscripts can not apply, as they have not had a medical examination.
Art. 2 of the Law on CO states: "Serious conscientious objection, in terms of the law, is insurmountable conscientious objection to the personal performance of military service bound up with the employment of violence means inherent in service in the Dutch armed forces".
This means that anyone seriously objecting to the use of violence in the Dutch armed forces, on religious, moral, ethical or even political grounds, can be recognised as a CO.
Application for CO status involves submitting a written notice. The applicant has to appear before a one-person committee, which considers the application, then advices the Minister of Defence, who makes the decision. If applicants are not recognised as COs, they receive a psychiatric examination and must appear before a three-person committee, which makes the final
Conscientious objection for professional soldiers
The law on conscientious objection to military service is drafted in a way that it only applies to
conscripts ('dienstplichtige'), but it has been reported that voluntary recruits can also apply for conscientious objection.
According to 'Aanwijzing inzake Gewetensbezwaren militaire dienst' from 1 January 1994, volunteers will be dealt with in the same way as conscripts, which means that the procedure as outlined before should also apply to voluntary soldiers.
However, little is known about recent practice.
According to the Ministry of Defence in 2004, professional soldiers who have conscientious objection to particular campaigns of the armed forces, for example deployment in Iraq, do not have the right to claim conscientious objection to participation in these particular campaigns. According to the Ministry, professional soldiers who have conscientious objection to a particular army campaign may only seek discharge from the armed forces.
In addition, military personnel can apply to resign from service. However, according to article 12m of the law on military personnel, the Minister of Defence can turn down such an application under certain conditions. This does not constitute a right to resign from service, as especially in times of war it can be expected that applications for resignation from service will be denied.
Draft evasion and desertion
Art. 36 of the new Law on military service (Kaderwet Dienstplicht) prescribes a maximum two-year prison sentence or a fourth category fine for failure to respond to the call-up. In wartime - when a call-up might be re-introduced - a five-year prison sentence or a 4th category fine.
Art. 139 of the Military Penal Code (Wetboek van Militair Strafrecht) states: "1. A member of the military who refuses to or deliberately refrains from performing any service, of whatever sort, will be punished with a maximum of 2 years' imprisonment or a fourth category fine. 2. When the crime is committed in wartime the convicted person will be
punished by a maximum of 5 years' imprisonment or a fourth category fine".
Desertion in peacetime can be punished by a maximum 2 years' imprisonment or 4th category fine. In wartime the punishment is a maximum of 7.5 years' imprisonment or a 5th category fine. Often the maximum penalty can be doubled. (Military Penal Code, art. 100 and 101).
Not much is known about practice. However, in 2007 the appeal court in Arnhem acquitted a soldier who refused to deploy to Afghanistan, after he had initially been sentenced to two months imprisonment. There was also a second case of refusal, which lead to a prosecution. However, a second person has also been finally acquitted in December 2007.