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.
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.
The Committee notes from the report that there have been no changes in the situation it previously considered unsatisfactory, and that the Government has no intention of changing it. Military service lasts 8 months. However it is extended to 11 months for non-commissioned officers, specialists and those undertaking reserve officer training. Alternative military service lasts 16 months.
A genuinely civilian substitute
service for conscientious objectors is not available. Estonia does not recognise the
right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers. Military recruitment
Conscription is enshrined in article
124 paragraph 1 of the constitution, according to which “Estonian
citizens have a duty to participate in national defence on the bases
of and pursuant to procedure provided by law”1
The European Committee of Social Rights has repeatedly dealt with the issue of the length of substitute service - especially in the cases of Greece and Finland. In recent years, it has taken up the issue on its own in several conclusions on country reports. We publish the relevant parts below (thanks go to the European Buereau for Conscientious Objection):
"The Committee previously noted that legislation provided for alternative service to compulsory military service, but sought further clarification on the length of such alternative service.
The Committee previously noted that legislation provided for alternative service to compulsory military service, but sought further clarification on the length of such alternative service. In December 2004 the length of alternative service was reduced to between 12 months (minimum) and 18 months (maximum) and is (according to other sources1) currently set at 16 months duration. Military service lasts between eight months (minimum) and 11 months (maximum).