Belarus: New draft for a law on substitute service?

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According to the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gave an instruction to develop a law on alternative service. This instruction followed a report on alternative service presented by State Secretary of the Security Council Leonid Maltsev on 18 February.

Forum 18 News reported on 18 January that a Law on Substitute Service was initially included in the 2010 Legislative Programme. However, it was removed "for some reason" at the last minute before the Programme was approved by presidential decree on 4 January, an official from the Department of Legislation on National Security and Law-Enforcement Activity at the National Centre for Legislation and Legal Research told Forum 18 on 18 January. "The President signed the decree without this," the official - who declined to be named - commented. Asked why it had been removed, the official responded: "Ask the Presidential Administration."

According to Forum 18 News, a previous attempt to adopt an Substitute Service Law was rejected by Parliament in 2004.

The failure to introduce an alternative to military service comes despite a Constitutional Court ruling nearly ten years ago that the Law should be changed. The May 2000 Constitutional Court ruling called for the "urgent" adoption of an Substitute Service Law or an amendment to the Law on Military Obligation and Military Service.

"I agree this ruling has not been fulfilled, but each ruling is carried out in its own way," Sergei Latushkin, the Constitutional Court's official in charge of supervising the enactment of its rulings, told Forum 18 from Minsk on 18 January. "Some take months, others take years. It depends on state bodies, Parliament, the legislative programme and other circumstances."

The right to conscientious objection is enshrined in Article 57 of the 1994 Constitution, according to which: "Procedures regulating military service, and the grounds or conditions for exemption from military service or its replacement by alternative service, shall be further regulated by law".

In addition, the 1992 military service law stipulates in Article 5.1 and 14.3 that "universal military duty" may consist of either military service or alternative service.

On 1 February 2010, conscientious objector Ivan Mikhailov was sentenced to three months imprisonment for refusing military service.

Sources: Belarusian Telegraph Agency: Belarus President wants alternative service law to be drafted, 18 February 2010; Forum 18 News: Belarus: Alternative Service Law withdrawn as prisoner awaits trial, 18 January 2010; War Resisters' International: BELARUS: Conscientious objector Ivan Mikhailov sentenced to three months imprisonment, 2 February 2010

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