Trials of believers will continue till adoption of law on alternative civilian service
On 9 March the College Board of the Minsk oblast court found unlawful the verdict of the Minsk district court on Ivan Mikhailau’s case and returned the case for a second trial. Bear in mind that on 1 February A.Minich, Judge of the Minsk district court, sentenced Mr. Mikhailau to three months of arrest under Article 435 of the Criminal Code, ‘evasion from military service’, because Mikhailau demanded to be assigned to alternative civilian service.
Human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich comments on the verdict of the College Board of the Minsk oblast court: ‘The Human Rights Center Viasna has been calling the authorities to drop the criminal case against Ivan Mikhailau. The case received a large publicity. Ivan Mikhailau who refused to perform military service on religious grounds was recognized a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
This case once again pointed at the absence of the institution of alternative civilian service in Belarus. Meanwhile, the Constitution of Belarus guarantees to its citizens the right to alternative civilian service. However, the appropriate law still hasn’t been adopted by the Belarusian Parliament, though there is a decision of the Constitutional Court for 2000, in which it was stated that the Parliament must adopt this law and Belarusian citizens had the right to civilian service.
We welcome the verdict of the Minsk oblast court and hope that the criminal persecution of Ivan Mikhailau will be stopped and the appropriate law will be adopted by the Chamber of Representatives in the near future.