Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Signed (13 Jun 2000). Ratified (23 Sep 2003).
Compulsory recruitment age: 18.
Voluntary recruitment age: 18, but the Home Guard Youth was open to volunteers from the age of 16.
Duration of compulsory military service: 12 months, in practice shortened to 8 to 9 months. A small number of conscripts serve in the National Guards for 6 months, but have to do an annual two weeks’ reservist training up to the age of 44. Conscripts who have performed regular military service also have reservist obligations up to the age of 44, but are in practice seldom called up for reservist training.
Conscientious objection to military service recognised for conscripts: Yes, since 1922.
Duration of civilian service: 13 months.
Conscientious objection recognised for professional soldiers: No.
Military expenditure: 1.6% of GDP (data 2009).
1) The Home Guard Youth was an entirely voluntary organization for young persons, providing “outdoor recreation and other physical and sporting activities with a military element”, to be pursued in the young person’s free time and without any liability for enrolment in the armed forces. The Home Guard Youth was open to volunteers from the age of 16.
2) There is no right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers.
3) The civilian service has punitive duration (8,3% longer than the military service).
4) Each year, between 100 and 200 conscripts refuse to perform both military and substitute service. They are usually sentenced to “enforced completion of the service”, which means that they are forced to perform a substitute service consisting of regular substitute service duties. This is mainly relevant for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They do not want to apply for substitute service but they will comply with doing substitute service if they are sentenced to perform it. Approximately 150 Jehovah’s Witnesses per year are sentenced to enforced service. Total objectors who do not comply with the sentence of enforced substitute service are usually sentenced to a fine and three months’ imprisonment under Article 35 of the Military Penal Law for “unauthorized absence from military service”. The Military Penal Law envisages a renewed call-up after release and a repeated three months’ imprisonment. In practice, the second sentence is often pardoned.
1) Stop military training and abolish military schools for persons aged under 18 (regarding the Home Guard Youth).
2) Recognise the right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers.
3) Make a civilian service of equal duration to the military one.
4) Stop prosecuting total objectors (especially repeatedly for their continued refusal to serve in the army).
Notes: The government has set a maximum on the number of COs that can be employed per year at 1,490. As the number of recognized COs is higher, this means that a considerable number of COs cannot start their substitute service. Consequently, between 500 and 1,000 COs per year are not called up for substitute service and are in practice exempt from serving altogether.