Serbia

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Bojan Aleksov became an anti-war activist in 1991. Since 2007, he has been a lecturer in Balkan history at University College London. His very personal perspective on anti-war activism in the former Yugoslavia appeared as 'Resisting the Wars in the Former Yugoslavia: An Autoethnography' in Resisting the Evil: [Post-]Yugoslav Anti-War Contention. Here, he writes from the same personal perspective about how to support conscientious objectors and deserters in times of war.

Conscientious Objection (CO) was never going to be easy, certainly not in Serbia during the 1990s.

Throughout history, people have strived for peace and yet our past often looks like a succession of wars. It's one thing to want peace, another to achieve and maintain it. 'Others' are usually blamed for war and aggression, while we see ourselves or our people as victims. We claim that we are defending ourselves from these vicious 'others'. Even big powers and their more imperially inclined elites usually justify their wars as preventative, defensive, 'good' wars, while enemies are only after 'bad' wars. Indeed, the greatest achievement of modern times in preventing war, or limiting its disastrous consequences, has so far only been to set some rules of how to wage war, and some conventions on war crimes.

Conscientious objection is perhaps more often seen as a moral imperative than as a strategy. However, in countries with active conscription, there can be different ways of avoiding or delaying military service. Some people gain a medical discharge. Others flee, emigrate, choose professions that are exempt from call up, or bribe officials.

Author: Tanjug

Belgrade - The peace group Women in Black announced today that last night around 1:30 am, two young men invaded the organization's headquarters and with a hammer attacked men and women activists in the kitchen.

This incident took place just before the holding of the Pride Parade in Belgrade, which indicates that homophobia is the motive of the attackers, a statement declared.

With Serbia, the last country of the former Yugoslavia is abolishing conscription. Radio Srbija reported on 16 July that from 1 January 2011 on, Serbia will have fully professional armed forces. According to an interview of Minister of Defence Dragan Sutanovac with Ekonom:east Magazine, the plan is to have 10600 professional soldiers and 2000 places for those who wish to serve voluntarily. According to the report of Radio Srbija there are already 8,000 applications, of which 1,600 (20%) are from women.

On March the 30th, 2010. the Parliament of Serbia adopted the Declaration on condemning the crime in Srebrenica.

After a long debate in the Parliament, when we could hear fascist statements from the members of Radical party, Democratic party of Serbia and Serbian Progressive party, the members of the Parliament adopted the Declaration on condemning the crimes in Srebrenica.

On 23 March 2010, the National Assembly of Serbia passed a new Amnesty Law, which will allow many Serbian expatriates to return to Serbia without fear of being arrested. According to the law, all citizens who have avoided military duty or service, or willfully left the Serbian Army from 18 April 2006 until the new law comes into force, will be granted amnesty.

According to a report in BalkanInsight.com, Serbia's minister of defence Dragan Sutanovac has announced that compulsory military service will be suspended and the professionalisation of the Serbian Army be completed next year.

In an interview with the daily Blic, Sutanovac expressed his belief that the country's president Boris Tadic will be in a position to suspend compulsory military service based on a report given by the defence ministry.

A/HRC/10/78

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"33. (...) According to the Constitution, conscientious objectors could serve their military duty without the obligation to carry weapons. There were 1,730 institutions and organizations for civil service. The civil service lasted nine months and 49 per cent of conscripts had opted for it."

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“In September 2001, when I demanded that the Serbian authorities recognise my right to CO there were 12 religious COs imprisoned in Serbia. Thanks to the campaign organised by the WRI and other peace groups, not only was I not jailed, but also these 12 imprisoned objectors were released in following months.”

Igor Seke, conscientious objector from Serbia

We ask you to support our efforts to support conscientious objectors and Prisoners for Peace. Take some time on 1 December – Prisoners for Peace Day – to write letters to prisoners (see the included list). And – for us to be able to continue our work – give generously to support WRI's work in support of Prisoners for Peace.

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