Country report and updates: France

Last revision: 23 Oct 2008
23 Oct 2008

Issues



  • France does not recognise the right to conscientious objection for professional
    soldiers.


Military recruitment


Conscription

In 2001, France ended conscription in peacetime1. This was based on a change of the National Service Law in 19972. However, conscription is in fact only suspended, and can be reintroduced in times of war or an emergency. The relevant articles of the National Service Law have been changed in a way that presently they are suspended for persons born after 31 December 19783. They can easily be reinstated.


Conscription has been replaced by a compulsory one day "rendez-vous citoyen" (national day of preparation for national defence). All young men and women between the ages of 16 and 18 are obliged to participate in this day. On this day, people have civil status and do not have to bear arms or wear a uniform or be subjected to military discipline. Participation in the
"rendez-vous citoyen" is a necessary condition for taking part in final examinations or obtaining a diploma in state universities4.


Professional soldiers

The service of professional soldiers is regulated in the Defence Law (Code de la Defense)5


Conscientious objection


Conscientious objection for conscripts

The right to conscientious objection was legally recognised in 1963. French CO legislation was restrictive and did not comply with international standards on conscientious objection. CO applications could only be made before starting military service and not by serving conscripts, and substitute service lasted twice as long as military service. In 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Committee came to the conclusion that this length of substitute service constituted a violation of article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights6.


Compared to other European countries, the number of COs in France has always remained relatively low. During the 1990s approx. 6,000 CO applications were made per year, which was only 3 per cent of all eligible conscripts.


With the suspension of conscription in 2001, the 1983 Law on Conscientious Objection (Law 83/605) became applicable only to men born before 31 December 1978. Consequently, young men who are born after 1979 have no possibility of claiming the right to conscientious objection.


Conscientious objection for professional soldiers

The right to conscientious objectors is not recognised for professional soldiers.


Draft evasion and desertion


No information on practice is available.

Notes


1France
salutes end of military service, BBC News Service, 29 November 2001,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1682777.stm,
accessed 2 May 2008






4The
Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe, Quaker Council for
European Affairs, 2005, http://wri-irg.org/co/rtba/france.htm,
accessed 2 May 2008





6Communication
Nº 666/1995 : France. 09/11/99. CCPR/C/67/D/666/1995.
(Jurisprudence),
http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/0c8f045e5407717e8025686900523…,
accessed 9 October 2008


Recent stories on conscientious objection: France

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.

04 Aug 1997

CCPR/C/79/Add.80
4 August 1997

(...)

19. The Committee is concerned that in order to exercise the right to conscientious objection to military service, which is a part of freedom of conscience under article 18 of the Covenant, the application must be made in advance of the conscript's entry into military service and that the right cannot be exercised thereafter. Moreover, the Committee notes that the length of alternative service is twice as long as military service and that this may raise issues of compatibility with article 18 of the Covenant.

(...)

01 Aug 1991

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A framework for female objection to military service was one of the fruits of the “Assises de l'objection”, a three-day meeting on CO issues organised by the Le Cun du Larzac community in southern France.