Court invalidated military draft of believers who ask for alternative service
Kharkiv District Administrative Court fully upheld a believer’s claim, who was called up for military service by a recruitment office, despite his request for alternative service.
The court ruling was issued on June 11, 2015, and will come into force if the recruitment office does not file an appeal, the Institute of Religious Freedom reports.
Kharkiv resident Pavlo Bakuma belongs to the Church of Evangelical Christians “New Generation”; he has already been for 2.5 years in the alternative service instead of the military service. The reason was his religious beliefs, prohibiting him to fight with weapons in hand. However, as a church minister, over the last year Pavlo assisted as a volunteer and chaplain not only to the army, but also to immigrants and residents of the occupied territories.
Despite Pavlo’s religious beliefs, Kharkiv Frunze district recruitment office decided to recruit him to military service and completely ignored both the fact of alternative service in the past, and the believer’s new request to ensure his constitutional right to serve out of army. In this regard, Pavlo Bakuma challenged in court the decision about his recruitment despite the request for alternative service and the very fact of the summons demanding to come to military draft office with his personal belongings for referral.
After considering all the circumstances of the case, the court upheld and fully satisfied the believer’s claim.
In its judgment, the court noted that at the time ofthe plaintiff’s conscription for military service, neither the state of martial law, nor that of emergencywere declaredin Ukraine, subject to which the law may establish specific restrictions on constitutional rights and freedoms specifying these restrictions.
The Court reiterated that the Constitution of Ukraine has the highest legal force and its provisions are directly applicable. It stressed the importance of respecting international standards of freedom of religion and belief enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court also pointed out that the lack of clear legislative settlement of contentious issues, including the need for changes to the Laws of Ukraine, cannot be a ground for denial to believers, whose religious beliefs do not allow use of weapons, of alternative (non-military) service instead of military conscription during the military conscription.
As reported by the IRS, in November 2014 the court of in Ukraine acquitted a believer and confirmed his right to alternative service. In response to the prosecutors’ complaint, Dnepropetrovsk Regional Appeal Court confirmed the acquittal and recognized the believer’s prosecution to be illegal in said circumstances.
In March 2014, Institute for Religious Freedom published on its website Clarifications on the conscription for military service and military training of religious citizens.