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Recommendations to the Russian Government
Human Rights Watch calls on the Russian government to take steps to end the violations that occur as a result of the practice of conscription through detention. First and foremost, the Russian government should address the widespread abuses in the armed forces that make so many young men anxious to avoid military service. Russia may decide that the introduction to a professional army is the most appropriate way to address this problem. In the meantime, the Russian government and legislature should take the following steps:

    · Instruct police officials to interpret "ensure the presence" as handing the young men summonses. The current interpretation of this wording-detention of the young men and their forcible delivery to recruitment offices-has led to human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch therefore recommends that the Minister of Internal Affairs advise police precincts throughout the country to interpret this provision as an instruction to locate the young men, hand them draft summonses under signature, and inform them of the consequences of failure to appear at conscription proceedings. The State Duma and government should introduce this interpretation in the text of the law and regulation on military service respectively.

    · Abolish the accelerated conscription procedure. Russian law on conscription does not provide for an alternative procedure for perceived draft dodgers but establishes one procedure that is applicable to all Russian men of conscription age without exception. The Ministry of Defense should take steps to end the use of the accelerated conscription procedures with respect to perceived draft dodgers. It should carefully monitor that existing legal provisions for conscription are fully observed in all cases.

    · Specify a minimum time period between receiving a conscription order and the day of departure to a military unit that allows young men a realistic opportunity to use their right to appeal. Current legislation indicates that a potential recruit must be allowed to go home after a draft board has decided to draft him, but does not specify a minimum time period. Conscription officials have used this gap in the law to justify sending potential draft dodgers to military units immediately after the conscription commission has made a decision. The State Duma and the government should introduce a minimum time period in the law and the government regulation on conscription. This minimum time period must be long enough to provide for a realistic opportunity to use the right to appeal.

    · Draft boards should make potential recruits aware of their right to appeal. The State Duma, government, and Ministry of Defense should amend the law, regulation, and relevant internal instructions on military service to:

      o Oblige chairs of draft boards to, when announcing their decisions to recruits, also inform them of the right to appeal;
      o Oblige draft boards to provide potential recruits with a copy of the conscription order in all cases, in person or by registered mail; and
      o Include in the conscription order an explanation of the right to appeal and other information relevant to appeal proceedings.

    · Young men at military recruitment offices should have the opportunity to inform relatives of their whereabouts. The minister of defense should instruct staff of all military recruitment offices that all young men who did not voluntarily appear must be given an opportunity to inform their relatives of their whereabouts.

    · Clearly display bills of rights of potential recruits in all military recruitment offices and collection points. In the absence of other effective public education that would ensure that the most vulnerable groups of candidate conscripts are aware of their rights, the Ministry of Defense should, in cooperation with international organizations and soldiers' rights groups, design a bill of rights that contains basic information on the rights of potential recruits, including the right to appeal a conscription order and to conscientious objection. Once this bill of rights has been developed, the ministry should instruct military commissioners throughout the country to display it in military recruitment offices in such a way that all potential recruits have the opportunity to read about their rights.

Recommendations to the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
Many Council of Europe member states have conscription armies, and the European Convention of Human Rights contains special provisions to permit obligatory military service. However, key Council of Europe institutions have explicitly recognized that conscript soldiers are "citizens in uniform," who should enjoy the same rights and freedoms as ordinary citizens though their special status does justify certain restrictions.91 Also, in Opinion 193 (1996) regarding Russia's request to accede to the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) explicitly required Russia to adopt a law on alternative military service and to "reduce, if not eliminate, incidents of ill-treatment and deaths in the armed forces outside military conflicts."

    · The PACE Monitoring Committee92 should insist on an effective opportunity for potential recruits to use their right to appeal. The Monitoring Committee should raise with the Russian government and the State Duma the absence of a realistic opportunity for recruits drafted through detention to make use of their right to appeal, as defined in Russian law and in article 6 (1) of the European Convention of Human Rights. The committee should insist on the implementation of effective measures, such as those described above, to address this issue.

    · The Human Rights Directorate of the Council of Europe and the Office for Democracy Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE should assist the Russian government in developing the above-mentioned bill of rights. The Human Rights Directorate and ODIHR should offer to facilitate a meeting between relevant government officials, Council of Europe experts, and soldiers' rights groups to discuss the bill of rights. It should also offer technical and financial support in developing and printing the bill.

Recommendation to United Nations Treaty Bodies

    · U.N. treaty bodies should review violations that occur in as a result of conscription through detention. In reviewing Russia's compliance with the respective treaty obligations, the treaty bodies, and the Human Rights Committee in particular, should consider the violations described in this report.

91 See: Engel and others v the Netherlands, Judgment of June 8, 1976, para. 54; Resolution 1166 (1998) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; and Recommendation 1380 (1998) of the Committee of Ministers.

92 The full name of this committee is: the Committee on the Honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe.

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