Country report and updates: Belgium

Last revision: 15 May 2005
15 May 2005

Issues



  • The end of conscription in
    Belgium also meant the end of conscientious objection. Belgium does
    not recognise the right to conscientious objection for professional
    soldiers.



Military
recruitment


Conscription

Conscription was suspended on 31
December 1992 by amending the 1962 Law on Conscription, which became
applicable only to conscripts drafted in 1993 and earlier1.
In practice this meant that the law no longer applied to those born
in 1975 and later. Since 1 March 1995 the Belgian armed forces
consist of professional volunteers only2.


Professional soldiers

The main
form of advertising for a career in the Belgian Armed Forces is via
advertisements in public spaces, such as buses and railway stations,
and in magazines and newspapers. In addition, the Armed Forces
organise a range of so-called “open days” to attract interest
from especially young people.


The
Armed Forces maintain 'Defensiehuizen' (recruitment offices) in
several Belgian cities, who mainly target people who already have
some professional training for non-commissioned officer and officer
positions.


According
to the Belgian Ministry of Defence, the recruitment target for 2008
was set at 1,700, while the target in previous years has been around
1,500. Generally, the military did not meet these targets in the last
years.


Additionally,
the military aims to recruit young people on a contract basis for
5-10 years3.


Conscientious
objection


Conscientious objection for conscripts

Legal basis

Although nobody is presently being
called up for military service, conscripts still have the right to
conscientious objection4.


The 1980 Law on Conscientious Objection is now obsolete. On 31 December 1992 it was amended so that it became applicable only to conscripts drafted in 1993 and earlier.


Conscientious objection for professional soldiers

There is no right to conscientious
objection for professional soldiers. According to Article 52 of the
Law for professional soldiers5,
soldiers can “request” their dismissal at any time, but such a
request can be rejected when it conflicts with service requirements.
Paragraph 3 of this article lists situations in which such a request
more or less automatically conflicts with service requirements:



  • when the soldier has so far
    served for less than three years following military training;


  • in times of crisis;


  • in times of mobilisation;


  • in times of war;


  • in peace time when the
    soldiers' unit is on operation, or prepares for an operation.



In fact, in situations where it would
be most likely that a conflict of conscience might arise, it is most
difficult to leave the Armed Forces prematurely.


Draft evasion and desertion


Desertion is punished with military
prison from two months to two years, according to Article 43 and following of the
Military Penal Code (Militair Strafwetboek) from 18706.
Information on practice is not available.


The question of draft evasion does
not arise as there is presently no conscription.


Footnotes



1Gecoördineerde
Dienstplichtwetten, http://tinyurl.com/2quv6o




2Directie
Gewetensbezwaarden 1996. Reply to CONCODOC questionnaire.




3Email
Hans Lammerant, Vredesactie, 4 April 2008




4Statuut
van de gewetensbezwaarden, http://tinyurl.com/2l9xov




Recent stories on conscientious objection: Belgium

15 Jan 2009

In this presentation I will give an overview of the right to conscientious objection, its
legal practices and frameworks in the 27 European Union member states. Before I do so, I want to step back a bit and have a brief look at the existing international standards about the right to
conscientious objection, as these standards allow us to put the practices in the EU member states into a perspective.