Conscientious objection


On 23 February the Helsinki appeal court decided to repeal a sentence given to a total objector by a district court. The objector said that his pacifist convictions were a reason for his conscientious objection. He had been sentenced for "refusal from civilian service". The appeal court decided that sentencing him would be discriminatory compared to Jehovah's Witnesses preferential treatment. Jehovah's Witnesses are exempt from military and civilian service in peace time.

A National Commission on Military, National and Public Service has been set up in the USA. Their mandate is to “to conduct a review of the military selective service process on draft registration” for the first time in decades, and also to determine “means by which to foster a greater attitude and ethos of service among American youth”. Whilst this might be precursor to increased militarism, it is also a chance for us to call for the end of draft registration.

For many years, it looked like obligatory military service was on the way out. But in the last five years, the picture has changed: Norway has extended conscription for women; Sweden has reintroduced conscription for all; Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania and Kuwait have reintroduced conscription for men after short hiatuses; Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have introduced conscription for the first time. We look at why governments are turning to compulsion in filling their armies, and what this means for pacifist movements.


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Portugal does not recognise the right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers.

Military recruitment

With Law 174/1999 (Law on Military Service, Lei do Serviço Militar)1
Portugal abolished conscription and started a transformation process into fully professional armed forces. The last conscripts were called up for military service in 2004.

Forum 18 say: 

'Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia continue to feel the impact of their liquidation and the nationwide ban on their exercise of freedom of religion or belief... Military call-up offices have denied several army conscripts the option of alternative civilian service. Jehovah's Witnesses also experience increased law enforcement harassment and incidents of vandalism and violence across the country.


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Updated October 2017; researcher Jimmy Roque Martínez. Translation: Catherine Gregory.

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription or military service in Cuba is supported in the constitution by article 65, which establishes that:


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08/01/1998 1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription is enshrined in art. 53 of the Constitution which states that military service is compulsory and is to be performed, regardless of an individual's social status, as and when the law requires. [2]

Compulsory military service is regulated by the 1978 Law on Conscription and Military Enlistment (Ley de Conscripcion y Alistamiento Militar).

In advance of International Human Rights Day on 10th December, the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection has published “Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Europe 2017”. “In 2017, efforts to recognize the rights of conscientious objectors to military service have taken once more a negative track in Europe”, EBCO President Friedhelm Schneider said.

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