Military enlistment office denies alternative service to believers
On October 19 the court of Tsentralny district of Homel continued hearings in the criminal case against a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, Zmitser Smyk.
As noted by “Radio Svaboda”, at the instigation of city military enlistment office, the prosecutor’s office charges Smyk of draft evasion.
On the initiative if judge Ryhor Dzmitrenka who is ion charge of the case of the believer, not only a representative of the military enlistment office Bursevich, but the city’s chief enlistment officer, colonel Vyachaslau Tsatsaryn.
Both the judge and the prosecuting official, prosecutor Ihar Kupchyn, asked the military men whether Zmitser Smyk had been offered alternative service. It turned out that they hadn’t. As the chief enlistment officer Tsatsaryn said, in Lukashenka’s decree on summer enlistment campaign to the Armed Forces of Belarus, only military service for a regular term and reserve service were mentioned. There was not a word about alternative service.
“The decree has a force of the law. Neither we nor the draft board can violate the law,” Tsatsaryn said.
The accused Zmitser Smyk asked the chief enlistment officer: what about the right for alternative service which is guaranteed by Article 57 of the Constitution o Belarus?
The colonel answered: “Defence of the Republic of Belarus is a sacred duty of any citizen”.
The chief enlistment officer also explained to the court that there is no alternative service in Belarus at all. Besides, as said by him, Zmitser Smyk is planned to be sent to transport troops in Zhlobin.
Teacher of Religion Studies of Skaryna Homel University, an activist of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Viktar Adzinochanka who observed the trial, stated that Jehovah's Witnesses refuse from army service.
“They refuse from military service. They didn’t participate in it in the times of the Soviet Union, though the punishment for that was very severe. They refuse to go to the army now. The first cases like that were in 2000. A dweller of Rechytsa Valyantsin Hulaj was on trial. The Belarusian Helsinki Committee took part in these cases. We received a decision of the Constitutional Court, that in the situation when there is no law on alternative service, and an article of Constitution exists, which envisages a possibility of such a service, in this case the Constitution is to be followed,” Viktar Adzinochanka said.