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					                        Conscience and Peace Tax International
                        Internacional de Conciencia e Impuestos para la Paz
                        NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN

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                                                                                     Derek Brett
                                                                                     Geneva Representative


         Submission to the 101st Session of the Human Rights Committee: March 2011
                Conscientious objection to military service and related issues

                                                                                              prepared April 2010


The right of conscientious objection to military service was enshrined in Article 25 of the
Constitution of the new Slovak Republic as promulgated in 1992, which states, “No-one shall be
forced to serve in the armed forces if this duty conflicts with his conscience or religious affiliation.”
The Civilian Service Act (No.207/1995) however incorporated a number of regressive provisions
by comparison with the military recruitment provisions which had been inherited from the former
Czechoslovakia. A strict time limit of 30 days was placed on applications to perform civilian
service on grounds of conscientious objection; the arrangements for “civilian service” were taken
out of the hands of local authorities and made the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence; all
placements were assigned, whereas previously objectors had been able to suggest their own
placements, and a placement other than in a state body became possible only theoretically if the
event should arise that there were no places available in the public sector; in fact the majority of
“civilian service” placements were actually to unarmed military service. Finally, the duration of
civilian service was increased from 18 months to 24 months, twice the duration of military service.1

In its concluding observations on Slovakia's initial report:
“The Committee notes with concern that insufficient steps have been taken to date to implement
various provisions of the Constitution dealing with fundamental rights and of the Covenant. In
particular, the Committee regrets the absence or inadequacy of laws regulating matters relating to
article 14 of the Covenant, with respect to the appointment of members of the judiciary; article 4 of
the Covenant; article 18, with respect to the right to conscientious objection to military service
without a punitive extension of the period of service; and article 25 of the Covenant.”2

Slovakia responded in Para. 221 of its Second Periodic Report that under Acts Nos. 401 and 185 of
2000, respectively, military service was reduced to nine months and civilian service to one-and-a-

1 Horeman, B. & Stolwijk, M., Refusing to Bear Arms , War Resisters International, London, 1998
2 CCPR/C.79/Add.79, Para 12.
half times the duration of military service. Questioned orally by the Committee on the size of the
continuing discrepancy, the State delegation referred to the continuing liability for reserve service of
those who had performed military service; although it was not clear whether reservists were actually
called up outside a time of national emergency, the Committee did not pursue the issue further in
the concluding observations..

In 2004, military and civilian service were further shortened to six and nine months, respectively, 3
as a step on the way to the complete “professionalisation” of the armed forces from the beginning of
2006, as described in Paragraphs 158 – 161 of the Third Periodic Report (in the section of the
report concerning Article 8 of the Covenant, as they address the exception of military service and
alternative service for conscientious objectors from the forced labour provisions). Provisions for
the re-introduction of conscription “in time of war or state of war” are reportedly contained in Act
570/2005; Act 569/2005 sets out the alternative service arrangements which would be made for
conscientious objectors. It is very likely that these would mirror the previous conditions of civilian
service, certain features of which, notably the time limits on making applications and the
discriminatory length of civilian service, represent a clear restriction on the freedom of thought,
conscience and religion.

There are not believed to be any provisions enabling professional members of the armed forces to
be released if they should develop conscientious objections.4

CPTI suggests that Slovakia be asked to confirm whether the provisions contained in Act
569/2005, which would govern alternative service for conscientious objectors in the event of
the reintroduction of conscription in time of war or national emergency, retain the thirty-day
deadline for making applications to substitute alternative service for military service and a
duration of alternative service one-and-a-half times that of military service, both of which
applied before the suspension of conscription, and if so whether consideration has been given
to making these features more compatible with article 18 of the Covenant.

On the principle that members of the armed forces do not lose the right to change their
religion or belief, Slovakia, like other states which have “professionalised” their military
service, might also be asked what procedures would be followed in the event that a regular
member of the armed forces applied for release having developed conscientious objections.

Postscript (February 2011)
CPTI welcomes the fact that in the Tenth Working Group Session of the Human Rights Council's
Universal Periodic Review, Slovakia added itself to those states which have made recommendations
concerning the right of conscientious objection to military service. During the review of Estonia, it
noted “the lack of clear grounds for accepting or rejecting an application for an alternative to
military service”5 and made a recommendation, accepted by Estonia, that the latter “ensure that
the right of conscientious objection to military service is upheld and clarify the grounds for

3 Stolwijk, M., The Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe: A Review of the Current Situation, Quaker Council
  on European Affairs, Brussels, 2005, p.64.

4 Professional soldiers and the right to conscientious objection in the European Union (Information against war,
  repression, and for another society No. 5 – Documentation produced for Tobias Pflüger MEP (Vereinigte
  Europäische Linke / Nordische Grüne Linke (GUE/NGL) Parlamentsfaktion Europäische Parlament, October 2008),
  p 46.
5        A/HRC/WG.6/10.L.15 of 4 February 2011, para 58.
acceptance or rejection of such claims.” 6.

6 Ibid, para 77.77

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