CONSCRIPTION THROUGH DETENTION
When recruitment officials are unable to serve a draft-age man with a summons, they submit his name to the police with a request that the police intervene to "ensure [his] presence" at conscription proceedings.42 The police then detain these young men at their homes, at metro stations, and in other public places and forcibly take them to the military recruitment office. Once there, officials quickly process them in accelerated conscription procedures, limiting their contacts with the outside world to avoid intervention by relatives. The majority of these conscripts are sent to military units the same day they are detained.
The Military Recruitment Office's Lists
Officials say conscription through detention is aimed at drafting those who try to avoid military service. In July 2002, Vasilii Krasnogorskii, Moscow's military commissioner, said recruitment offices request police assistance because there "are people who do not show up at the required time and they need to be found."43 For this purpose, recruitment offices compile lists of suspected draft dodgers that they send to local police precincts with a request for assistance. In accordance with conscription regulations, recruitment officials can make such requests only if they had a valid reason to summon the young man-in other words if he was not entitled to a deferral or exemption-and if officials attempted to hand the individual the summons in person but failed.44
Recruitment officials may often have solid grounds to include young men on lists sent to police. In several cases Human Rights Watch researched, young men admitted they did not have a right to a deferral, tried to avoid receiving and signing summonses, and ignored those that were left in their mailboxes.45 One young man said that before opening the door he always checked who was there so as to avoid being conscripted.46 The mother of another said that after her family moved from Kyrgyzstan to St. Petersburg, she simply did not enter her son in the local military registry there, hoping he would thus avoid military service.47 In several other cases researched by Human Rights Watch, military recruitment offices appeared to have grounds to detain young men who claimed they had student deferrals. In these cases, either educational institutions had failed to confirm to military recruitment offices that the men were indeed students, as the regulation on the military registry requires them to do once every year,48 or the young man had been temporarily expelled from university for failure to pay tuition or pass exams and had failed to inform the military recruitment offices that he had been reinstated. Consequently, military recruitment offices no longer considered them to be students and summoned them for conscription proceedings. As the young men consistently ignored summonses, military recruitment offices came to consider them as potential draft dodgers.49
Human Rights Watch is concerned, however, that the lists are sometimes compiled in such a haphazard manner that individuals are included on the list even when they are exempt from military service. In two cases we researched, recruitment officials included in their lists young men who had had legitimate deferral or exemption grounds. For example, Dmitrii K. from St. Petersburg told Human Rights Watch he had consistently appeared at the military recruitment office when summoned, and at its request was gathering medical reports for exemption when on December 27, 2000, police unexpectedly knocked on his door and took him to the military recruitment office.50 In another case, Alexander B. told Human Rights Watch he had finished the officer's training program at his university and could no longer be conscripted according to ordinary procedure, and that his university notified the recruitment office of this. Yet on November 27, 2001, police officers detained him at a Moscow metro station and brought him to the recruitment office.51
Police Detentions Pursuant to a Request from the Military Recruitment Office
As a rule, police officers, often accompanied by an official from the military recruitment office, detain young men at their homes early in the morning. While in some cases police took the young men straight to the military recruitment office, in others they first spent several hours at the police precinct.
On May 16, 2002 at 7:40 a.m., police officers came to Stepan O.'s house. After his parents had woken him up, the officers explained that he had to go to the military recruitment office.54 Stepan O.'s parents confirmed in court that the officers had been polite and had given Stepan O. sufficient time to get dressed.55 The officers took Stepan O. to the 19th police precinct, where they held him in a cage for about ninety minutes before bringing him to the recruitment office.
In another case, early in the morning of November 22, 2001 police officers came to the home of Sergei S. They were generally polite, asked him his name, and told him they were taking him to the military recruitment office. On the way, Sergei S. escaped from the police car. On May 23, 2002, police officers returned and forcibly entered his home. Sergei S. told Human Rights Watch he was awoken when he felt someone kicking him in his side. When he opened his eyes, he saw a police officer and military officer. After Sergei S. confirmed his identity, the officers told him he would have to come with them. While Sergei S. got dressed, the officers looked around his apartment, collecting his passport from a closed cupboard. The officers took Sergei S. to the 148th precinct in Moscow and put him in a cell for approximately two hours. During that time, the officers went around the neighborhood detaining more young men.56
On December 27, 2000 early in the morning, police rang Dmitrii K.'s doorbell. When he opened the door, Dmitrii K. saw the neighborhood inspector and a recruitment officer in plain clothes who immediately grabbed him without explanation and took him away. The officers took Dmitrii K. straight to the recruitment office.57
Detentions Based on Profiling of Conscription-Age Men
On November 27, 2001, Alexander B. was on his way to work when police stopped him at the Shchukinskaia metro station in Moscow and asked him for identification. The officer took him to a man in military uniform, who then checked his name against a list. When they established Alexander B.'s name was on the list, the policeman commandeered him into a bus that was parked outside the metro station. Six other young men-all had been detained in similar fashion-were already waiting in the bus. Alexander B. spent the next two hours on the bus, and after police brought in another eight young men, the bus drove them to the local recruitment office.58 Alexander B. had finished the officers' training program at his university and was not eligible for ordinary military service.
In another case, police officers stopped "Konstantin L." on December 3, 2001, at 8:00 a.m. outside a metro station in St. Petersburg.59 After checking his identity, they called the recruitment office, which informed them that Konstantin L. had been expelled from the university and no longer had grounds for deferring his military service. The officers took Konstantin L. to the local police precinct, from which he was taken to a military recruitment office.
Detentions that occur as a result of identity checks in public places based on profiles violate provisions under Russian law. The Russian law on the police allows officers to check people's documents only "if there are sufficient grounds to suspect them of having committed a criminal offense or a misdemeanor..."60 The mere notion that a person is a male of conscription age does not alone satisfy the "sufficient grounds" requirement.
Accelerated Conscription Proceedings
As stated above, during conscription proceedings ordinarily a panel of medical doctors examines a candidate to determine his fitness for military service, and a draft board then determines whether and where he should serve. In cases of conscription through detention these procedures are accelerated and minimized significantly. All young men interviewed for this report said that draft boards processed them with remarkable speed, giving them preference over young men who had duly responded to draft summonses. Each said that within a matter of hours, a panel of seven medical doctors had examined him and a draft board had reviewed their files and made a decision to draft him. One interviewee, who had been at the military recruitment office several times in previous years, commented as follows:
Under conscription regulations, after a conscript has been drafted by a draft board, he departs at a later date for his military base; in the interim, he is allowed to go home; none of the men interviewed for this report were allowed to go home. Rather, on the very day they were detained and examined, officials drove them to the collection point, where another panel of doctors examined them and the municipal draft board reviewed the conscription order in the same speedy fashion as at the local level. In each case, the conscription order was confirmed. Then, representatives from military units (called, literally, "buyers;" in Russian: pokupateli), reviewed their files and determined where they would serve. Most of the young men interviewed were sent off to their military bases that same day. The others were locked up in the military recruitment office or sent temporarily to a local military unit, and sent to their designated units in subsequent days. For example, Andrei S. and about thirty others like him spent four days locked up in the military recruitment office in St. Petersburg before being sent to a Ministry of Internal Affairs unit in Moscow.63 Sergei S. and several young men with him were driven to a local military unit in Moscow for a night to await departure to their military units the next day.64
Andrei S., who has had a severe limp since childhood, referred in vain to his condition; one of the doctors told him that "half this city limps" and that he was fit for service.65 Sergei S. told Human Rights Watch he was taken around to the doctors in handcuffs; while some of the doctors asked why he was handcuffed, only one asked pertinent questions about his health. This doctor asked Sergei S. about the fact that he was flatfooted, and decided that he was fit for service with some minor restrictions. The other doctors merely referred to a report issued by a 1998 medical examination at the military recruitment office, which stated he was healthy: "In 1998 you were in fine health so now you are in fine health." They ignored Sergei S.'s assertion that he had suffered a severe concussion a year earlier. Sergei S. said that within fifteen minutes all seven doctors had seen him.66
Dmitrii K. told Human Rights Watch no physician examined him. Officers kept him in a locked room while an official went to the various doctors to get their signatures ascertaining that he was fit.67 Dmitrii K. and his wife both saw his medical file and told Human Rights Watch that one person had signed for the dentist, the ophthalmologist, and the surgeon. The municipal draft board office repeated a similarly superficial procedure later that day, after he had been brought to the collection point.
Ignoring Deferral or Exemption Grounds
When he was detained in May 2002, Stepan O. repeatedly told the Ostankino district draft board in Moscow that as a student at the University of the Russian Academy for Education he had a right to deferral. In response, he told his mother, officials threatened to send him to Butyrka prison if he refused to serve.68 The draft board drafted Stepan O. the day of his detention, citing notification it had received from the university that he had been expelled for failure to pay tuition. It ignored his claims that the papers confirming his continued studies were at home.69 That day, Stepan O. was sent to a military unit in Reutov. The university later confirmed in court that Stepan O. had indeed been reinstated shortly after he was expelled.70 After two courts found Stepan O.'s conscription to have been lawful, the Moscow municipal procuracy filed a protest against the conscription and asked the commander of his military base to send him home. Stepan O. currently is continuing his studies.
Similarly, the Kuntsevo district draft board in Moscow ignored Alexander B.'s contention that he had finished the officers' training program at his university.71 Officials said they had not been informed of his participation in the program and refused to verify it with the university.72 They also said they desperately needed rank-and-file soldiers, while they had a sufficient number of officers. Officials ignored documents from the university confirming Alexander B.'s status, which his parents and girlfriend brought in, and designated him to serve as a rank-and-file soldier in the border troops.73
The Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia has received a number of complaints from the parents of young men who were conscripted through detention even though their government jobs entitled them to a deferral. For example, on December 6, 2001, police detained a young man who was working at the Moscow fire department. At the recruitment office, the draft board decided to draft the young man despite the fact that, according to his mother, he had documents with him confirming he was a firefighter.74
Alexander B. and Sergei S. told Human Rights Watch that they witnessed officials reluctantly consider deferral or exemption claims made by other young men detained together with them, but only when relatives could be contacted and could bring supporting documents to the recruitment office.75 It was unclear why military officials refused to take into consideration Alexander B.'s papers showing his right to exemption from the ordinary conscription procedure.
Denying Requests to Inform Relatives
The practice of denying requests by those detained to contact relatives or advocacy groups is inconsistent with the right to appeal, as it effectively strips the young men of the opportunity to exercise that right. Also, the Russian constitution grants the right to access to a lawyer to "every" detainee "from the moment of his detention."76 However, Human Rights Watch is not aware of any cases in which those detained for conscription purposes sought access to a lawyer.
In an application to the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia, "Anna K." (not her true name) wrote that her son went to Moscow on December 22, 2001 from their home in Moscow province and did not return. Three days later, she reported him missing to the police. Finally, on December 27, 2001, she received a telegram from her son in which he said that he had been drafted, as police had detained him in Moscow and taken him to the military recruitment office.77 In another similar case, reported by the Moscow newspaper Moskovskii komsomolets, on December 6, 2001, a nineteen-year-old man left his home for a job interview. When he did not come home that evening, his parents began to worry and started calling hospitals and morgues. When they contacted the local police precinct, officers advised them to call the military recruitment office. Recruitment officials, however, denied that Anna K.'s son was in their custody. Yet, later that night, a young man rang the doorbell and informed the worried parents that their son was at a collection point. He had been detained that morning at the metro station.78
Maksim K.'s case is also characteristic. Police detained him outside his home in St. Petersburg on November 28, 2001 and brought him to the recruitment office. Maksim K. told Human Rights Watch that he asked to phone home when he was informed that he would be sent to his military unit that same day. An official declined the request, saying: "If you call now, all sorts of relatives are going to come over. We don't need that."79 Maksim K. was finally able to make a phone call from the train station that evening just before boarding the train to his military base.
Denial of the Right to Appeal a Conscription Order
The law on military service provides for the right to appeal conscription orders in court and implies that a young man must be given an opportunity to exercise this right before he begins his military service.80 Article 28(7) explicitly states that any court appeal suspends a conscription order until the court's decision enters into legal force.81 The European Convention of Human Rights also grants potential conscripts a right to appeal, although it does not state that a young man must have an opportunity to exercise this right prior to starting military service.82 Under ordinary circumstances, conscripts would have time to file a court appeal before they had to depart for their base.83 While conscription regulations do not specify the length of this interval, it can range from one day to three months.
Yet, officials seem to believe this provision does not apply to those conscripted through detention. Indeed, in a trial monitored by Human Rights Watch, a recruitment office representative denied that conscription regulations require that young men have the opportunity to go home before departure to their military units, even in cases not involving conscription through detention. He said that since regulations do not state a specific time period, the conscripts could be summoned to start their service the same day they appear before the draft board.84 In that same case, the representative also claimed that if a young man does not explicitly request a copy of the conscription order he thereby forfeits his right to appeal. Although the law on military service does not make the right to appeal dependent on a request for a copy of the conscription order, the court accepted the reasoning and ruled that the right to appeal was not violated in the case.85 An appeals court later confirmed the decision.
Several young men interviewed for this report told Human Rights Watch they informed draft officials that they wanted to appeal the conscription decision. Alexander B. told officials that he considered his conscription to be unlawful and that he wanted to appeal. Officials at the local draft board told him he could appeal the conscription order only at the collection point. In protest Alexander B. refused to sign his military identification card, to which officials responded with indirect threats, saying that although "we don't care, we'll send you off anyway," other conscripts "might not like his attempts to be special."86 At the collection point, officials told Alexander B. that they do not make decisions on conscription but merely serve as a transfer point. He was told that he could try to appeal the decision from the military unit. When Alexander B. asked whether he was not supposed to get time to pack his bags and say goodbye to his relatives, officials answered that "that is only given to those who come voluntarily."87
Dmitrii K. informed officials at the collection point that he might want to appeal his conscription order or exercise his right to conscientious objection, and that he would have to give notice to his employer in case he was forced to serve. He requested that he be given time to make up his mind. This request, however, was flatly denied and Dmitrii K. was sent to a military base that same evening. 88
Several other young men told Human Rights Watch that they were not aware of their right to appeal and that officials had not informed them of it. Indeed, conscription regulations do not stipulate whether draft board officials are obliged to advise young men of their right to appeal when they announce the conscription decision. The conscription order and the service summons also do not contain any information on the right to appeal.
Appeal from Military Bases
Conscripts who have already started their service are unlikely to be able to take part in the preparation of the case and in the court hearings. Communication with representatives is also complicated as conscripts often serve far away from their home regions, where the case would be heard, and have limited access to telephones. Moreover, their written correspondence is subject to censorship.
A conscript seeking to appeal a conscription order needs a third person or public organization to represent him in court, as he would be unable to prepare his case or attend hearings. He must grant his representative power of attorney, which the unit commander must notarize.90 This may have repercussions for the conscript, as the commander will realize the conscript is going to appeal the conscription order, which is not in his interest. A conscript can also choose to be represented by a public organization and write a letter to the organization asking it explicitly to represent him in court. The organization's board can then appoint a representative and the head of the organization can notarize the power of attorney. Very few conscripts are likely to be aware of this alternative.
42 Article 31(2) of the law on military service.
43 "V Moskve prizvano 8 protsentov prizyvnikov," Prima News Agency, July 11, 2002.
44 Article 31(2) of the law on conscription. Human Rights Watch requested meetings with the military commissioner of Moscow on two occasions in the summer of 2002 to seek more details on the decision-making process regarding requests for police assistance. No response was received to either request.
45 Human Rights Watch interview with "Andrei S.," St. Petersburg, April 13, 2002; Human Rights Watch interview with "Maksim K.," St. Petersburg, April 8, 2002. "Andrei S." and "Maksim K." are pseudonyms.
46 Human Rights Watch interview with "Sergei S.," Moscow, May 29, 2002. "Sergei S." is a pseudonym.
47 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother of "Andrei Ch.," St. Petersburg, April 12, 2002. "Andrei Ch." is a pseudonym.
48 Article 23(d) of the Regulation on the Military Registry of December 25, 1998.
49 An example is the case of "Stepan O." (not his true name). In November 2001 and April 2002, a Moscow recruitment office requested police assistance in tracking him down although he was studying at the time and had received a deferral for the time of his studies. As his university had failed to present a letter confirming his continued studies to the military recruitment office in August 2001, the military recruitment office no longer considered him to be a student and summoned him for conscription proceedings. According to an official, starting in September 2001 the military recruitment office had sought to hand Stepan O. summonses on seven occasions. However, on none of these occasions had anybody been home or opened the door. Therefore, on November 20, 2001, and again on April 23, 2002, the military recruitment office requested police to help ensure Stepan O.'s presence for conscription proceedings. On May 16, 2002, police detained Stepan O. at his home. Human Rights Watch interview with Valentina O., the mother of Stepan O., June 18, 2002. On June 18, 2002, a Human Rights Watch researcher also observed a court hearing in his case.
50 Human Rights Watch interview with "Dmitrii K.," St. Petersburg, April 11, 2002. "Dmitrii K." is a pseudonym.
51 Human Rights Watch interview with "Alexander B.," Moscow, December 3, 2001. "Alexander B." is a pseudonym.
52 The Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia raised several dozen cases of conscription through detention with the procuracy in December 2001 and January 2002. In several separate responses, the procuracy wrote it had found no violations.
53 If the practice of detention for conscription is inconsistent with Russian law, police officers conducting such detentions violate the provisions of the Russian criminal code that prohibit unlawful detention, such as article 301 of the criminal code ("Unlawful detention") and article 286 (abuse of office). Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: "Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law." Article 5(1) of the European Convention also requires that any detention be carried out "in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law.
54 Human Rights Watch interview with Stepan O., Moscow, June 18, 2002.
55 Decision of the Ostankino District Court in Moscow of June 18, 2002. A copy of the decision is on file at Human Rights Watch.
56 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergei S., Moscow, May 29, 2002.
57 Human Rights Watch interview with Dmitrii K., St. Petersburg, April 11, 2002.
58 Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander B., Moscow, December 3, 2001.
59 Human Rights Watch interview with "Konstantin L.," St. Petersburg, April 10, 2002. "Konstantin L." is a pseudonym.
60 Article 11(2) of the law on the police of April 1991 (last amended on August 4, 2001) states: "The police have the right in order to fulfil its obligations: ... 2. Check the identity documents of citizens and officials if there are reasonable grounds to suspect them of having committed a criminal offense or a misdemeanor ..."
61 Human Rights Watch interviewed one young man who said that when officials discovered they did not have a file on him, they created a new file, photocopying the picture on his student ID for his military ID. (Human Rights Watch interview with Konstantin L., St. Petersburg, April 10, 2002). The Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia received complaints about at least two more such cases during the 2001 fall conscription period. In one of them, a Moscow draft board drafted a young man who was registered in a different province. (Files shared with Human Rights Watch by Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia).
62 When he was eighteen, the young man had appeared before a draft board, which had granted him a student deferral. Human Rights Watch interview with Maksim K., St. Petersburg, April 8, 2002.
63 Human Rights Watch interview with Andrei S., St. Petersburg, April 12, 2002.
64 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergei S., Moscow, May 29, 2002.
65 Sokolov was declared fully fit for military service. Later, when serving, a military doctor ruled that Sokolov was fit with minor restrictions.
66 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergei S., Moscow, May 29, 2002. Usually, flatfootedness is grounds for certain kinds of medical exemptions.
67 Human Rights Watch interview with Dmitrii K., St. Petersburg, April 11, 2002.
68 Butyrka is a pretrial detention center in Moscow, notorious for its appalling conditions.
69 In court, the representative of the military recruitment office stated that he did not believe Stepan O. had these papers at home. He stated that Stepan O. could have brought them when the police officers detained him but did not and therefore apparently did not have them. University records, however, show that Stepan O. in fact received such documentation on May 7, 2002.
70 Human Rights Watch interview with Stepan O., Moscow, June 18, 2002.
71 A person who has finished the officer's training program becomes a reserve officer. The military commissioner, not the draft board, drafts reserve officers for service. See article 26(2) of the law on military service.
72 Usually a university notifies the relevant recruitment office when a potential conscript under the latter's jurisdiction has completed an officers' training program.
73 Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander B., Moscow, December 3, 2001. Alexander B. also had exemption grounds to support his disabled father, under article 24(1b) of the law on military service. At the time of his detention he was not aware of his right to claim such an exemption, and the draft board did not ask him whether he had any family-based exemption grounds.
74 Name withheld. Documentation shared with Human Rights Watch by Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia. Article 7 of the Law on Fire Safety states that firefighters may not be drafted into the armed forces, even if they are of conscription age.
75 Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander B., Moscow, December 3, 2001; and Human Rights Watch interview Sergei S., Moscow, May 29, 2002.
76 Article 48 of the Russian constitution.
77 Filed shared with Human Rights Watch by the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia.
78 Vladimir Semiriaga, "Zasada na soldat" [Soldiers Ambushed], Moskovskii komsomolets, December 8, 2001.
79 Human Rights Watch interview with Maksim K., St. Petersburg, April 8, 2002.
80 Article 28(7) of the law on military service states:
A citizen may appeal a decision of the draft board from the moment he receives a copy of the decision within the term established by legislation of the Russian Federation with the draft board of the relevant province of the Russian Federation or with a court... In such cases, the execution of the decision of the draft board...is suspended until a decision is issued by the draft board of the relevant province of the Russian Federation...or the attainment of legal force of the decision of the court.
82 Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights states: "In the determination of his civil rights or obligations...everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law..." The provision expressly applies not only to criminal proceedings but any rights or obligations that domestic law recognizes as such. Russian law explicitly recognizes military service as an obligation.
83 Article 16 of the regulation on conscription states: "A conscript, with regard to whom a draft order has been issued, receives a service summons to appear at the collection point for departure to their place of service."
84 The official also referred to article 28 of the regulation on conscription, which states that "the date and time of appearance for conscripts at the military recruitment office for departure to the collection point is, as a rule, set in good time, keeping in mind the travel time to the collection point." It appears that "in good time" refers to the amount of time a conscript might need to travel to arrive at the collection point (for example, from a village in Siberia it could take days to travel to the closest collection point) and does not provide the conscript with any right to have time to prepare for service or appeal the draft board's decision. Yet, the representative of the military recruitment office argued that, in his opinion, it would be "in good time" if a conscript was informed within thirty minutes of the departure to the military unit.
85 Decision of the Ostankino District Court in Moscow of June 18, 2002. A copy of the decision is on file at Human Rights Watch.
86 Human Rights Watch interview with Alexander B., Moscow, December 3, 2001.
88 Human rights Watch interview with Dmitrii K., St. Petersburg, April 11, 2002.
89 Article 51 of the law on military service contains an exhaustive list of grounds for early release of conscripts from military service but a court decision overturning unlawful conscription orders is not among them.
90 Ordinarily, a notary public notarizes a power of attorney. However, as many conscripts or military servicemen may not have easy access to notary publics from military base, article 185(3) of the Russian civil authorizes commanders of military bases to notarize documents.