Norway: end of substitute service for conscientious objectors

en

The Norwegian government announced on 1 July 2011 that substitute service for conscientious objectors will end later this year. According to Minister of Justice Knut Storberget, the reform will mean that conscientious objectors to military service will in the future no longer be called up for a substitute service, but will simply be exempted from military service. According to the press release, there has been an ever decreasing number of applicants for conscientious objection in recent years, from over 3,000 applicants about 10 years ago to the current level of about 350. Meanwhile the need of the Armed Forces for military personnel has been declining. Accordingly, Norway has no need to send conscientious objectors to a substitute service, said Justice Minister Knut Storberget. A draft bill was submitted for public consultation in July.

In anticipation of the new bill, conscientious objectors will no longer be called up for substitute service. Those already serving will however continue to serve, although the service might be shortened for those who would need to serve beyond 1 January 2012.

According to a 2005 report by the Quaker Council for European Affairs, Norway's armed forces comprise 19,000 troops, including 11,300 conscripts.

Every year, approx. 32,000 young men reach conscription age. According to the website of the Norwegian Armed Forces, in 2008, 10,151 did their national service, out of which 803 were female. However, for women military service is not compulsory, but voluntary. This means that out of 32,000 young men reaching conscription age only about 30% would be called up for compulsory military service.

The Norwegian Armed Forces have to some degree followed the trend to increase recruitment of volunteers. In the official document "Norwegian Defence 2008", it was stated regarding personnel policy: "The highest priority will be given to the recruiting of the most suitable young people either for regular service on contract or as junior or full career officers." The updated 2011 document states: "The personnel structure of the armed Forces is changing to include more service personnel on regular engagements and further development of the new category of junior officers. Continuing efforts are being made to provide horizontal career paths with greater continuity for regular officers and other ranks."

Following a discussion about conscription of women (see CO-Update No 31, August 2007), it has been made compulsory for women to attend an interview with the National Service Administration from 2010 on. The Ministry of Defence stated in Norwegian Defence 2011: "The introduction of obligatory interviews for young women in 2010 means that the overall number of young men and women attending initial interviews is increasing to some 60,000 each year. Introduced at the same time is a new two-part interview session of which Part 1 consists of an Internet-based self-declaration. This initial information enables the recruiting authorities to select those, about 25,000, to be called in for Part 2 of the process which will take place at an interview centre. The Armed Forces have been set an annual quota of a minimum of 1,500 women to undergo initial military service with effect from the batch born in 1992."

Sources: Ministry of Justice and the Police: Slutt på siviltjeneste, Press release, No.: 62, 01 July 2011; Siviltjeneste: Informasjon om den sivile verneplikten, accessed 10 August 2011; Quaker Council for European Affairs/War Resisters' International: Country report and updates: Norway, 2005; Norwegian Armed Forces: Personnel, accessed 10 August 2011; Norwegian Ministry of Defence: Norwegian Defence 2008; Norwegian Ministry of Defence: Norwegian Defence 2011

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