Estonia: Human Rights Committee of the United Nations demands clarifications on conscientious objection

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During its 99th session, the Human Rights Committee examined the periodic report of Estonia. The issue of conscientious objection only came up briefly. The issue had been raised by War Resisters' International in a report to the Human Rights Committee. Regarding the issue of alternative service in lieu of military service and conscientious objection, the Committee asked if the delegation could inform it of the criteria used to determine approval for alternative service because the information provided in the report suggested that very few applicants were approved for alternative service.

According to the press release, the reply of the Estonian delegation was: "Turning to conscientious objection, the delegation said that one of the reasons that only 11 of 64 applications had been approved was that alternative service lasted longer than military service so many people eventually opted to go into the military. Also, the State had to be sure that people were truly conscientious objectors and not just saying that to get out of military service."

In its Concluding Observations, the Human Rights Committee said:
"14. The Committee is concerned that few applications for alternative to military service have been approved during the last few years (11 of 64 in 2007, 14 of 68 in 2008, 32 of 53 in 2009). It is also concerned about the lack of clear grounds for accepting or rejecting an application for alternative to military service (art. 18, 26).

The State party should clarify the grounds under which applications to alternative to military service are accepted or rejected and take relevant measures to ensure that the right of conscientious objection is upheld."

Sources: War Resisters' International: Country report and updates: Estonia, 23 October 2008; Human Rights Committee: Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant. Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee - Estonia, CCPR/C/EST/CO/3, 28 July 2010; Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights: Human Rights Committee considers report of Estonia, 13 July 2010

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