Digest from the Movement of Conscientious Objection

September 2023

Hello! This is Artyom Klyga, The MCO Advocacy Manager, with news from the life of conscientious objectors in Russia. Russian authorities are trying not to issue foreign passports to conscripts while military personnel in war are not being given leave. The MCO challenged the label of foreign agent in the courts. Russian courts recognize the right of legal entities to make reservations. The launch of the electronic registry, which has been used to scare conscripts since April of 2023, has been postponed until 2024.


Conscripts are required to bring documents from the military office if they want to receive a foreign passport without any legal ground

In order to travel outside Russia citizens need to obtain a foreign passport (exceptions: Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan). They apply for it in Ministry of Internal Affairs (police), pay a state fee and wait a period of two weeks to one month. This procedure is regulated in detail: for example, a government agency does not have the right to demand from the applicant more documents than are provided for by regulations. Despite this, the police require applicants to provide a special certificate from the military office, as well as military registration documents when obtaining a foreign passport. We advise conscripts to pay attention to the regulations in accordance with which police officers must act when applying for a foreign passport. Legally conscripts still are not obliged to bring any documents from military offices.

Military personnel who are at war are not given leave

Russian legislation considers military personnel as an ordinary employee under an employment contract. Moreover, legally mobilized citizens are equal to citizens who enter into a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense. This status allows them to qualify for both cash payments and adherence to a daily routine and rest. In September 2023, relatives of those mobilized began to picket and appeal to regional and federal authorities demanding leave for military personnel. By September 2023, some men had been at war for a year without taking leave. Unfortunately, it is difficult to influence the decisions of military unit commanders. The Russian army is experiencing problems with human resources, and therefore there is no need to talk about observing the basic rights of military personnel in military units. The right to grant leave remains at the discretion of the commander of the military unit.

The electronic registry will not be launched in 2023

In Russia, throughout 2023, conscripts were intimidated by an electronic registry. This system was invented by deputies of the Russian parliament in order to replace the outdated military registration system, which is maintained on paper. The introduction of the electronic register was promised in October 2023, but it turned out that solving technical issues is much more difficult than passing laws. It is planned that, on an experimental basis, the electronic register will begin work in 2024, and in 2025 it will be fully launched. The electronic register will store a huge amount of information about the conscript: place of residence, place of work, study, health data, passport data and other information. It is planned that any change in a citizen’s status will be instantly transferred to the electronic register. For example, information about leaving the country or entering the country through border departments will be immediately transmitted to military registration and enlistment offices.

The MCO appealed the status of a foreign agent

In June 2023, the Russian Ministry of Justice recognized the MCO and its director Saša Belik as foreign agents. In Russia, this status imposes prohibitions and restrictions on organizations and citizens. If the restrictions are not followed, a person may face two to five years in prison. Foreign agents must report their status in all information resources and submit income reports to the Ministry of Justice once every three months.

We do not agree with this status and have already appealed the decision of the Russian Ministry of Justice in the courts. Director of the MCO Saša Belik: 

We understand that we are unlikely to be able to achieve justice in Russian courts. However, we will try to do this in all possible national authorities. If unsuccessful, we will contact the UN Human Rights Committee.

An appeal in court will allow us to familiarize ourselves with the materials and find out what specific facts became the basis for including the organization and the director of the MCO Saša Belik in the register of foreign agents.

Reservation helps with mobilization. Courts correct mistakes.

We also have good news. The cassation courts of Russia (the last instance before the Supreme Court) began to cancel judicial acts on conscription for the mobilization of citizens that were reserved by organizations. Reservation is a procedure according to which a legal entity can ask the military office not to call up its employee for military mobilization service due to the fact that his work is important for the functioning of the organization. For a long time, military offices took the position that if you did not have time to make a reservation, then the mobilization call is legal. The courts did not agree with this position and noted that the right to reservation upon mobilization cannot depend on the actual execution of documents, and decided in favor of the mobilized.

Thank you for reading!

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