Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Signed (7 Sep 2000). Ratified (26 Jun 2002).
Compulsory recruitment age: 19.
Voluntary recruitment age: 18.
Duration of compulsory military service: min. 260 days. The length of basic military training is 21 weeks, and 18 weeks in some exceptional circumstances. Women who volunteer for basic military training have the same obligations as male conscripts once they have been accepted. After basic military training, all men have reservist duties of up to 21 days yearly up to the age of 34, and up to 50 for officers. Reservist duties consist of 6 or 7 refresher training periods generally of 17 to 21 days each. The total length of military service thus amounts to 260 days and up to 600 days for officers. 20-30% of the recruits in basic training are obliged/forced to do officer training. Reservist duties also include home maintenance of equipment, a rifle and ammunition and the obligation to absolve shooting courses yearly. It is also possible to apply to serve the total of military service as one service (“Durchdiener”). In this case, the total length of military service is 300 days for conscripts, and more for non-commissioned officers and officers. This applies also to women who volunteer for military service.
Conscientious objection to military service recognised for conscripts: Yes, since 1996.
Duration of civilian service: min. 390 days (non-commissioned officers or officers often serve longer, see next). According to article 8 of the Law on Civilian Service, substitute service is 1.5 times longer than military service. For conscientious objectors who were non-commissioned officers or officers during their time as conscripts, substitute service lasts between 1.1 and 1.3 times longer than the remaining military service. After completion of substitute service, conscientious objectors are liable for ‘extraordinary civilian service’. Conscientious objectors may only be called up for extraordinary civilian service during time of war or emergency.
Conscientious objection recognised for professional soldiers: Yes.
Military expenditure: 0.8% of GDP (data 2009).
1) The civilian service has punitive duration (50% longer than the military service).
2) According to the Law on Military Exemption Tax, all those not fulfilling their military duties are in principle liable to a military exemption tax. According to article 2 of the law, this applies to all those liable to military service living in Switzerland or abroad who for more than six months of a given tax year have - for whatever reason - not been attached to a military or reserve unit, or who have failed to attend when summoned to perform their military service. However, article 4 defines a range of exemptions, for handicapped people, and especially for Swiss citizens living abroad. Conscripted citizens leaving the country to live abroad are obliged to pay exemption taxes during the first 3 years abroad. According to article 13, the military exemption tax is rated at 3% of taxable income, and a minimum of 200 Swiss Franks (increased to 400 Swiss Franks from 2010). For handicapped people who are not exempt according to article 4 the tax is reduced to 50%. Non-payment of the military exemption tax can be punished with a fine of 200 Swiss Franks and seizure of wages to recover the tax debt.
The Law on Military Exemption Tax does not provide for a conscientious objection. As only those fit for military service can apply for conscientious objection and perform a substitute service, those with a conscientious objection who are unfit for military service are liable to the payment of military exemption tax. Also conscientious objectors who in a certain tax year fail to serve in substitute service have to pay the military exemption tax. In April 2009, the European Court of Human Rights decided on the case of a Swiss complaining about discrimination for being obliged to pay the military exemption tax in spite of being willing to serve military service, but not being allowed to due to health reasons. In this case, the ECtHR declared the Swiss exemption tax a violation of article 14 in conjunction with article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, “finding that the applicant had been the victim of discriminatory treatment as there had been no reasonable justification for the distinction made by the Swiss authorities between, in particular, persons who were unfit for service and not liable to the tax in question and those who were unfit for service but were nevertheless obliged to pay the tax”.
1) Make a civilian service of equal duration to the military one.
2) Abolish the Military Exemption Tax.
Notes: On 10 December 2010, the Swiss parliament passed amendments to the regulations for substitute service from 11 September 1996, with the stated objective to reduce the number of CO applications. The main changes are:
Until recently, it was possible to download the CO application form from the website of the relevant administration. However, according to the new article 23 para 1, the application form has to be requested.
In addition, the applicant will need to confirm in writing after four weeks that he still wants to pursue his application. In case such a confirmation does not happen, the application will not be dealt with (article 26 para 4).
Soldiers in Basic Training who apply for conscientious objection have to undergo an assessment of their conscience by military officials and psychologists, and are put under pressure to withdraw their conscientious objection application ("Gespräch Zivildienstgesuch, GZG)
Substitute service, which in Switzerland can be served in several periods, can only be served in up to two areas of service.
Compensation for conscientious objectors in substitute service for food, housing, transport etc is vastly reduced by almost 50%.
In its press release from 1 February 2011, the substitute service administration writes: "The amended regulations, passed at the end of 2010, aim to increase a trend in the reduction of CO applications by introducing a number of restrictions for applicants and people in substitute service".