Human Rights Center Viasna demands that criminal case against Ivan Mikhailau be dropped
The civil right to alternative service ensues from Article 57 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. This article provides that the defense of the Republic of Belarus is a sacred duty of a Belarusian citizen. The order of the military service, the reasons and the conditions of its replacement with alternative service are determined by the law.
Thus, the Constitution does not consider military service as the only possible and unconditional variant, as the possibility of freeing from the military service or its replacement with alternative service are stated in it.
Correspondingly, the Constitution provides the right of citizens to execute their obligation and sacred duty to defend the Fatherland in the forms that are provided by the Constitution, i.e. also by means alternative service.
According to Article 4 of the law of the Republic of Belarus of 15 March 1994 On the order of entry into force of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus that laws that are mentioned in the Constitution, were to have been adopted within two years after its coming into effect, i.e. by 30 March 1996.
However, neither the Supreme Soviet of the 12th Convocation, nor the Supreme Soviet of the 13th Convocation implemented this requirement and didn’t solve the question of the grounds and conditions for replacement of military service with alternative service and the conditions of the latter, by adopting a special law.
Bear in mind that Article 57 was left in this edition even after the amendments of the Constitution after the referenda of 1996 and 2004. There are norms that allow the Parliament to postpone the implementation of Article 57 on the legislative level. Despite this, the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus still hasn’t adopted a law aimed at the implementation of this article of the Constitution.
Refusal from military service for moral reasons (including religious and other convictions) also concerns other personal rights enshrined in the Constitution and other international treaties in the sphere of human rights that were ratified by the country.
In particular, according to Article 31 of the Constitution, every person has the right to independently determine the attitude to religion, confess any religion individually or in association with others or not confess any religion, express or distribute the views concerning the attitude to religion, participate in the administration of the cults, rites and rituals that are not banned by the law.
These rights are also guaranteed by norms of the international legislation, the priority of which is officially acknowledged by the Republic of Belarus, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The right of every individual to refuse from the military service was also recognized by the UN Human Rights Council.
Such right of citizens of the Republic of Belarus was also recognized in Belarus. In the Ruling of the Consitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus of 26 May 2000 On certain issues of realization of Article 57 of the Republic of Belarus it is stated:
1. to point that citizens of the Republic of Belarus, according to the Constitution, have the right, in particular, for replacement of the military service because of their religious views. In connection with this, to consider as urgent the adoption of the law on alternative service or amendment of the Law On universal military service with the aim of establishing a mechanism for exercising the right to alternative service. To agree, for the period of decision of the questions of the conditions and reasons for replacement of the military service, with the practice of creating (in conformity with Articles 31, 57 and 59 and other articles of the Constitution) of the conditions for implementation by citizens of the Republic of Belarus their duties on the defense of the Republic of Belarus in the forms that don’t violate their religious views.
2. the extent to which a citizen’s actions are connected with exercising his constitutional right to alternative service or refusal from the military service in the conditions that don’t provide the due respect to his religious beliefs, should be taken into consideration by the competent state organs while deciding the questions of responsibility for the evasion from the military service.
In connection with the aforementioned facts, the Human Rights Center Viasna is of the opinion that citizens of the Republic of Belarus have the legal right to refuse from the military service on because of their convictions and demand to provide them with the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to alternative service.
The Human Rights Center Viasna considers as inadmissible the criminal persecution of the persons who refuse from the military service because of their religious views, but agree to its replacement with alternative service. Criminal persecution of such individuals is a human rights violation.
The Human Rights Center Viasna demands an immediate release of Ivan Mikhailau from jail and cessation of the criminal persecution towards him.
The Human Rights Center Viasna demands from the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus to urgently adopt the law on alternative service as a practical mechanism for realization of the provisions of Article 57 of the Constitution.