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Human Rights Defenders Appeal to Medvedev to Abolish Conscription

Source: hro.org (info), 07/10/10

· Human Rights Defenders · The Army · Conscripts’ Rights

Russian human rights defenders and civil society activists have appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev as commander-in-chief of the armed forces in an Open Letter containing proposals to reform the army. The Letter, published on the website No to Conscription, is still open for signing.

Grani.ru reports that the Letter’s authors have called on the Head of State to take five steps towards reform of the armed forces, including making the length of the terms for conscription and alternative civilian service equal by 2011; the introduction of electronic registration for persons of military age and those who have become reservists; that all social obligations to officers be met, in particular that they receive free housing; that the term for conscription be reduced to six months by the autumn draft of 2011; and the full transition to service by contract for all military personnel be implemented by 2012.

The Open Letter has been signed by, among others, human rights defenders Lev Ponomarev, Maksim Burmitsky, Michael Krieger and Dmitry Makarov; director of the Andrei Sakharov Centre Sergei Lukashevsky; members of the bureau of the Solidarity movement, Oleg Kozlovsky and Sergei Davidis; deputy director of Transparency International – R, Ivan Ninenko; the writer Viktor Shenderovich; member of the executive committee of The Other Russia party, Sergey Fomchenkov; and leader of Groza, Aleksei Kozlov.

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The Open Letter reads:

To the President of Russia, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Russia, D. A. Medvedev:

Mr President, one of the key tasks on the road to the modernization of Russia is reform of the army. The initiatives of the Ministry of Defence, such as the gradual introduction of the institution of sergeants on contract or the appointment of civilians to take up non-military posts, are positive, but without a clear policy orientation they will remain little more than good intentions.

The sharp fall in the number of persons of conscript age, the poor health of conscripts, the tragedy for many families of the abolition of deferral for social reasons: these are the main problems that demand decisive action.

We see the main goal of military reform as the transition to a voluntary and professional army.

We propose five successive steps that would allow, with the support of both the public and military service personnel, to prepare and carry out reform of the army in a short period of time.

Five Steps to Reform the Army
1) By the spring draft of 2011, equalize the length of terms of military conscription and alternative civilian service. Guarantee the right of refusal on grounds of conscience at any time before an individual enters military service.
 
2) Abolish documents that identify individuals as eligible for conscription and as having served their military service. Introduce a system of electronic registration for persons of military age and those who have entered into the reserve.
 
3) Meet all social obligations with regard to officers, in particular provide them with free housing. Guarantee those who have served in the army under contract government interest-free credit for higher education.

4) Reduce the period of service for conscription to six months by the autumn draft of 2011.
 
5) From 2012 complete the full transition to contract service for the military.