An alternative service for conscientious objectors of military service is still not given in Belarus, which violates the human right for conscientious freedom.
After pressure from Belarusian NGOs supported by an international campaign led by Libereco, the belarusian authorities finally decided in February 2010 to elaborate a law on civil service. In the last months, some conscientious objectors were amnestied or their punishments were lowered but they still face the obligation of military service. Libereco is calling for a rapid elaboration of the law including a consultation of Belarusian NGOs.
Actually, article 57 of the Belarus constitution has been scheduling an alternative service since 2001. However, a law on alternative service has never been elaborated. This contradiction has become even more obvious when the numbers of conscientious objectors of military service increased during the last year.
After the conviction of two conscientious objectors, Dzmitry Smyk in November 2009 and Ivan Mikhailau on the 1st of February 2010, Libereco started a campaign asking for the release of Ivan Mikhailau from prison and demanding the Belarus government to introduce an alternative civil service. A letter was signed by European NGOs and also several German and Swiss MPs followed the appeal of Libereco and addressed the authorities in Minsk. In Belarus itself, the campaign "for alternative civil service" increased its pressure.
On 18th February the campaigns had their first success when President Lukashenka finally commissioned the elaboration of a law on alternative service. Unfortunately, the discussions of the draft law are carried out exceptionally within a governmental work group, while Belarusian NGOs have no chance to raise their voice. That is why several NGOs elaborated a draft law themselves at the beginning of August.
In March, Ivan Mikhailau was released from prison, some days earlier than expected. As well, Dzmitry Smyk's fine was nullified. However, both Mikhailau and Smyk can be summoned up for military service again.
In early June, Yauhien Yakavenka, who requested the authorities to do an alternative civil service, was found guilty of not attending the army and was punished with one year of custodial restraint. Following information of Belarusian and international NGOs, he was granted amnesty on the 23th of July but is still bound to military service.
Libereco is pleased by some of these positive evolvements but still sees a lot of space for improvements. Libereco is calling the Belarusian authorities to
- rapidly finalise and implement the law on alternative service
- consult Belarusian NGOs before the finalisation of the law
- give the soldiers Andrei Tsianuta the opportunity to render an alternative instead of a military service
- refrain from re-summoning up Dzmitry Smyk, Ivan Mikhailau and Yauhien Yakavenka for military service.