Digest from the Movement of Conscientious Objection

November 2023

Friends, greetings to everyone! November was marked for us by a petition in support of conscientious objectors, new legislative initiatives from the Russian authorities, and both good and bad news from the Supreme Court. All of this in our monthly digest.

The MCO collected signatures in support of conscientious objectors from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus

The German Parliament – Bundestag – published a petition in support of conscientious objectors from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. We managed to draw attention to this issue with the help of our colleagues from Germany and collected 7,500 signatures in support of this initiative. The MCO publicly advocates for the position that the right to conscientious objection to military service belongs to every person regardless of citizenship. Unfortunately, we encountered unexpected problems in disseminating this petition: some human rights organizations and the media refused to publish it because it mentioned Ukrainian conscientious objectors. The MCO will continue to engage in dialogue with the German government on the creation of a mechanism to legalize conscientious objectors in the country.

The Supreme Court of Russia recognized the “International LGBT Movement” as an extremist organization

The Supreme Court of Russia, within two weeks, declared some “International LGBT Movement” as extremists. It is impossible to call this procedure a legal process. The text of the lawsuit was classified, the court process was closed, and interested parties were not allowed into the process. Only the resolutive part of the court decision was publicly announced. The MCO attempted to intervene as an interested party to access the materials but received a categorical refusal. So far, it is unclear what is meant by the term “International LGBT Movement.” Such a broad formulation will allow law enforcement agencies to hold both individuals and public associations or organizations accountable. It is noteworthy that state media distributed a list of organizations considered “structural units” of this public movement, including our organization.

Changes will be made in Russia to the document regulating medical examination during conscription

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation published a draft regulatory legal act to amend the Government Resolution regulating issues of medical examination and assigning certain categories to men during conscription into military service. Until now, Russian authorities refrained from making any significant changes to issues of medical examination. Therefore, for example, conscripts facing compulsory military service could, with some difficulties, identify a non-draftable condition that would allow them to legally ignore the call to the army. The project is published on a special website but currently does not contain the text of the proposed changes.

The Supreme Court of Russia recognized the right to alternative civilian service during mobilization

A case related to the consideration of the right to alternative civilian service during mobilization reached the Supreme Court of Russia. In March 2023, a district court in the Leningrad region ruled that the military office was obliged to replace military service with alternative civilian service when conscripting Pavel Mushumansky into military service during mobilization. The decision of the district court was upheld by appellate and cassation courts. In November 2023, the Supreme Court concluded this case by rejecting the military office’s cassation appeal. It is worth noting that Pavel Mushumansky, the plaintiff in this case, had previously performed alternative civilian service as part of mandatory conscription. This fact played a decisive role in the court’s decision in his favor. For most other citizens who have undergone military service or have never undergone it, the opportunity to use alternative civilian service during mobilization is not available.

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