The Adoption of the Law on Alternative Military Service in Azerbaijan Policy Paper

The research group of the Institute for Democratic Initiatives (IDI) has investigated and issued a policy paper on the alternative military service in Azerbaijan.

According to IDI, the purpose of the policy paper is to examine the country's obligations in terms of the adoption of the law regarding to alternative military service, to investigate the current situation regarding the implementation of the right to conscientious objection in the country, and to give appropriate recommendations.

During preparing the policy paper, the current situation in the field of military service in Azerbaijan, local and international legislation, similar studies, the statements of the country's officials on the issue, and parliamentary discussions were monitored.

According to the commentary of the 18th article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 9th article of the European Convention of Human Rights, the parties (the governments) have to recognize the right to conscientious objection and alternative military service.

Besides, Azerbaijan has taken an obligation to adopt the law on the alternative military service complying with European standards in two years after joining The European Convention on Human Rights.

Although the adoption of a law on alternative service is an obligation of the Republic of Azerbaijan arising from Article 76 § 2 of the Constitution. However, Azerbaijan has not fulfilled its obligation, which arises from both international and local legislation.

Some people refuse to serve in military because of their beliefs and religions, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their complaints in domestic courts are still not satisfied because of the lack of such legislation. They are subject to various punitive measures under Article 321.1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan and other legislative norms.

As a result of the study, it is concluded that:

- this is a constitutional problem;

- the officials are indifferent to the issue;

- law on alternative service should be adopted in accordance with international standards.

Recommendations given in the policy paper are as follows:

- The Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Alternative Military Service should be adopted;

- those, who refuse to perform military service because of their beliefs, should be given a chance to engage in alternative service;

- Persons arrested in connection with the absence of such legislation and subjected to other such punishments shall be pardoned, and the sanctions imposed on them shall be lifted.