Military service, including exemptions and the availability of alternative service, the penalty for refusal to perform compulsory military service, and whether those who performed their obligatory military service with the armed forces of the Soviet Union are required to perform military service with the armed forces of Belarus (January 1996 - present) [BYS30235.E]

The November 1997 Conference of European Churches' Conscientious Objection to Military Service - A Human Right, states that in March 1996, the length of military service in Belarus was 12 months, there was a possibility of conscientious objection based on religious, ethical, or philosophical reasons, and that alternative service was "in construction (85, 86)."

An April 1997 Amnesty International publication, Out of the Margins: The Right to Conscientious Objection to Military Service, states:

Military service is compulsory for all males between the age of 18 and 27. It lasts 18 months, except for university graduates, who have to serve 12 months. Military service can be postponed for social reasons like family matters, being the breadwinner of the family, having small children, etc. -or for educational reasons, such as attending university...

There is no alternative service at present for conscientious objectors to military service. A draft law on alternative service (of a proposed length of three years, or twice the length of compulsory military service) has been under discussion in parliament since 1994. The Parliament did not include provisions for conscientious objectors in the Constitution adopted in March 1994.... The current law exempts from military service those who have served a term in a forced labour colony for a major criminal offence.

In the absence of alternative civilian service in Belarus young men who state their conscientious objection to military service continue to face prosecution by the military authorities, conviction on criminal charges for evading the service and imprisonment. According to statistics provided by the Belarus League for Human Rights, a local NGO, at the spring call-up in 1995, 30% of the conscripts refused to enter the service. According to the same source, 99% of these had gone in to hiding or they had feigned illnesses to avoid being drafted (19).

A 27 January 1998 Belapan News Agency article states:

The Belarusian Military Prosecutor's Office has reported that 776 criminal offences were committed in the Belarusian armed forces in 1997, an 11-per-cent decline compared to 1996. Property and ammunition thefts fell by 50 per cent, cases of conscription evasion fell by 27 per cent...

Military prosecutors uncovered 10 cases of bribery against 11 cases in 1996. However, reported cases of bullying new recruits rose by 6 per cent....In 1997, according to the Military Prosecutor's Office, 81 servicemen died an unnatural death against 86 in the previous year.

In the Belarusian army,...cases of conscription evasion [dropped] by 27 percent and the number of participants in crimes fell by 25 per cent. Sixty-five servicemen died an unnatural death, seven of them were killed and 21 committed suicide....

The Military Prosecutor's Office reported ...a 50-per-cent rise in cases of bullying new recruits, a four-fold increase in the number of violations of the subordination procedure, and a five-fold increase in cases of physical abuse....

In the Internal Troops,...cases of conscription evasion [fell] by 27 per cent and cases of bullying by 15 per cent. However, criminal offences rose by 42 per cent and cases of physical abuse by 52 per cent. The Military Prosecutor's Office also reported cases of rape and bribery which were registered in 1996. In the railway troops,...a rise occurred in cases of bullying and physical abuse. One serviceman died an unnatural death. No suicide cases were reported to have taken place.

A 2 April 1998 ITAR-TASS article states:

Gen. Kauryn [Maj-Gen Mikhail Kauryn, the head of the organization and mobilization directorate of the General Staff of the Belarusian armed forces] said that, under Belarusian laws, conscripts are called up for 18 months. At the moment, the republic does not have any alternative form of service, but provision for this and also for service in the reserve has been made in the new bill on compulsory military service. However, unlike normal military service, alternative service or service in the reserve will last three years, the general explained.

He also said the number of so-called "refuseniks" in the country was gradually falling. According to his information, 674 people failed to turn up at conscription offices last autumn. The previous year the figure was 806 and in 1993 and 1994, for example, the number of "refuseniks" was 1,500.

No information on the legal penalty in Belarus for refusal to perform one's compulsory military service, and whether citizens of Belarus who performed their obligatory military service with the armed forces of the Soviet Union are required to perform military service in the armed forces of Belarus, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International. April 1997. Out of the Margins: The Right to Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Europe. (AI Index: EUR 01/02/97). London: Amnesty International.

Belapan News Agency [Minsk, in English]. 27 January 1998. "Drop in Crime Rate Reported in Belarusian Armed Forces." (BBC Summary 29 Jan. 1998/NEXIS)

Conscientious Objection to Military Servie - A Human Right. November 1997. Conference of European Churches: Bremen.

ITAR-TASS [Moscow, in Russian]. 2 April 1998. "Spring Call-Up Begins." (BBC Summary 4 Apr. 1998/NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

CSCE Digest [Washington]. January 1996 - December 1996.

Electronic sources: IRB databases, Inernet, NEXIS/LEXIS, REFWORLD, WNC.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki [New York]. August 1997, July 1998.

Intenational Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. Annual Reports. 1997, 1998.

Refusing to Bear Arms: A World Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to Military Service: Part1: Europe. November 1997. War Resisters International: London.

Transition [Prague]. January 1996 - October 1998.

Uncaptive Minds [Washington]. Winter 1996 - Fall 1997.

Resource Centre country file on Belarus. January 1996 - August 1998.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact oral sources.