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        • The Security Sector in the State of Emergency: Testing Democracy
          • Publications

          • Autor: Isidora Stakic, Jelena Pejic Nikic, Katarina Djokic, Marija Ignjatijevic, Sasa Djordjevic
          • The Security Sector in the State of Emergency: Testing Democracy

          • This analysis by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) concludes that during the 52 days it spent in a state of emergency, Serbia failed the test of democracy, thanks to a series of failings and irregularities in the conduct and control of the security sector.

        • The Masks Have Slipped: Serbia in a Geopolitical Pandemic
          • Publications

          • Autor: Isidora Stakic, Maja Bjelos, Marko Drajić
          • The Masks Have Slipped: Serbia in a Geopolitical Pandemic

          • Masks have slipped and the interests of Serbia’s foreign policy were exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. These interests are not based on the principles of common goods, but on mechanism for preserving the existing internal order. This is one of the conclusions in the foreign policy analysis ...

        • Crime in the Western Balkans Six at the Time of Coronavirus: Early Findings
          • Publications

          • Autor: Sasa Djordjevic
          • Crime in the Western Balkans Six at the Time of Coronavirus: Early Findings

          • Did organized crime groups continue with their activity at the time of Coronavirus, which trends in the criminal activities in the Western Balkans can be noticed in the first six weeks of the pandemic and which scenarios can be envisaged for the future, analyzed BCSP Researcher Sasa Djordjevic.

        • Pandemic of geopolitics
          • Publications

          • Autor: Igor Bandovic
          • Pandemic of geopolitics

          • How does the COVIDー19 pandemic influence Serbia's foreign policy - read in the op-ed writen by BCSP Director Igor Bandovic for the weekly "Vreme".

        • Why Are People Leaving the Serbian Defence System?
          • Publications

          • Autor: Katarina Djokic, Marija Ignjatijevic
          • Why Are People Leaving the Serbian Defence System?

          • BCSP Researchers Katarina Djokic and Marija Ignjatijevic analysed the reasons for employees leaving the Serbian defence system and gave recommendations that could overturn this negative trend.

        The Security Sector in the State of Emergency: Testing DemocracyThe Masks Have Slipped: Serbia in a Geopolitical PandemicCrime in the Western Balkans Six at the Time of Coronavirus: Early FindingsPandemic of geopoliticsWhy Are People Leaving the Serbian Defence System?
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          • Year: 2003
          • Conscientious Objection in Serbia

          • 23. january 2003. Igor Seke, President of European Bureau for Conscientious Objection for the Balkans »Wars will cease when people refuse to fight in them.« – Albert Einstein

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          Conscientious objection to military service is the right of each individual to refuse to participate in any kind of war or war preparations, including the right to refuse military service, with arms or without it.
           
          Conscientious objection, certainly, does not refer only to military service, but has many other aspects: for example, there is a strong movement fighting for ban of experiments with animals. The members of this movement believe that such experiments are - at least non-ethical, so they have conscientious objection to such experiments. However, if we discuss military service, conscientious objection has a broader meaning than the former definition. There are groups who think that pure alternative civil service does not enable one to leave the military system since conscription - compulsory military service, i. e. obligatory recruitment, is again in its basis. This kind of conscientious objection was particularly present in Spain (until conscription was terminated on January 1st 2002) where total objectors - Insumisos - were sentenced to two years in prison, or even longer, because they refused to enrol for civil service. In prisons, they had to share cells with murderers and the worst delinquents. Conscientious objection can also refer to military expenses, therefore different campaigns are organised (for example, to refuse paying part of taxes, aimed for armed forces), and in Switzerland there is a group searching for the banks, which deal with arms traffic, and calling for these banks to be boycotted. There are also many other examples.
           
          Let us answer the most controversial question provoked by this issue in our country: conscientious objection to military service did have its origin in religion and, what shocks our "true believers" even more, it has its origin in religious sects so this is used here as one of the strongest arguments against conscientious objection. At the same time, is is forgotten that modern idea of freedom and non-acceptance of the conditions has developed from resistance and opposition to Catholic church and pope, top authorities of the Middle Ages. Religion in Europe, Christianity - precisely speaking, framed the field for changes and new solutions, something which could be understood as then »institutions of the system«, so often called upon now. Some other phenomena, now much more accepted, such is vegetarianism for example, also developed from religious sects. Among different demands for religious freedom, other social demands also found their place and - to get back to the beginning - the only place they could find was among religious demands. At the end of the dark Middle Ages (and this end has come, to large extent, thanks to those religious - protestant - sects, which get extremely negative publicity in Serbia today), with the appearance of national states, social demands become more and more important - if not more - than certainly as important as religious ones. By secularisation of the states, conscientious objection has less been treated as a religious act.
           
          Conscientious objectors were respected by Catherine II and by Napoleon. Even at the beginning of 20th century, this right was recognized in Scandinavia, then after the Second World War - step by step - it has been recognized in Western Europe and after demolition of Berlin Wall, it also happened in ex-socialist countries. Among former Yugoslav republics, the first one to do that was Slovenia in 1991 and then Croatia. Macedonia adopted the law protecting this right in 2000 but the FRY and Bosnia still suffer from incomplete laws and unsatisfactory practise.
           
          What is the essence of this problem in our country?
           
          The first and basic problem is that one cannot refuse military service. If you call upon your conscientious objection (if you are lucky enough - when you are only 17 - to know what it is, to form a strong opinion and be sure that you don't want to enrol for armed forces) you will be allowed to fullfil your military duty in a slightly different way - you will be sent to so called civil service in armed forces. Even in this very definition, we can see the paradox because in my opinion (perhaps, an old-fashioned one) you can be either a civilian or a soldier. Therefore, you will be under the authority of military police and military court, or the one of civil police and civil court. It is possible, certainly, for a civilian to be employed by the army, to sign a contract and get paid, but in that case a civilian has mechanisms to break it. However, a soldier has no possibility to »break a contract« which he »signed« at the moment when his birth was registered. Civil service in the armed forces is, in fact, military service without arms in non-combat units or in the military institutions such as military farms. The law stipulates that a soldier who serves his military duty without arms has all the rights and obligations as any other soldier (including his vow »to give his own life« if necessary, among other things). Such a service does not fulfil the conditions - according to any international standard - to be considered as »alternative civil service«, which is mentioned in the resolutions and recommendations of United Nations, European Council, European Parliament, OSCE...
           
          According to international standards, there are two kinds of service, completely different in terms of their character and those are, of course, military service and civil service. A citizen can »fulfil his duty before his country« (as it is popularly formulated here) through any of these services and no matter which of them he chooses, a citizen cannot suffer any consequences or be discriminated in any way. The jobs done by conscientious objectors in civil service can differ from country to country, but these jobs always have a common characteristic - they are usefull for the society as a whole. They usually include work in hospitals, old people's homes, fire brigades, organisations for rehabilitation of the disabled, associations of blind people, soup kitchens, children's homes, institutions for disabled children, general rescue organisations, as well as in ecological, charitable and even some non-governmental organisations, such as the Red Cross, for example.
           
          Dragging (because this institution defnitely must appear in our country, sooner or later, if we want progress) with introducing this kind of civil service in our country is still justified by security reasons. We seem to stay in »hostile« surrounding, but »the enemy« seems to have stopped being afraid of us - all neighbouring countries, exept Bosnia and Herzegovina (where a new law on the army and defence is being prepared) have civil service. This right is recognized in Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria... Speaking about security, only if each individual in a community is safe, the community is secure. The notions of security and safety have changed in the last fifteen years and security is not only the question of whether our country will be occupied by a foreign army, but also of whether everybody has enough food, whether the sick will have medical care, whether homeless children will have somebody to take care of them. We can have the most powerfull army and the best secured borders and be sure that no enemy soldier can enter our territory but feel, at the same time, that our life is not secure for thousand other reasons. During NATO bombing, the tens and perhaps even hundreds of thousands people were recruted to military units. At the same time, social services suffered the lack of people who could, for example, help the old go to shelters. The logic is very simple - in war, the need for humanitarian work neither diminish nor does it dissappear. On the contrary, it grows considerably.
           
          In the Army of Yugoslavia, two contradictory statements can be heard constantly: very few conscripts are interested in civil service - about 0,04% - which is, probably, to glorify our warriors' spirit, but at the same time there is an assumption that nobody will choose military service if there is a choice between civil and military ones. In refer to the first fact, there is a simple question - how could anybody be interested in civil service if there isn't any? Speaking about the claim that nobody would enrol for the army if civil service would be introduced, the authorities should be asked other questions: did they manage to organise the country in the way that it satisfies the needs of all its citizens and what is wrong with the country that nobody wishes to defend? And before all these questions, the key one should be asked - are citizens there to serve the authorities or the authorities should serve the citizens? There will always be, of course, many of them who will want to enrol for the army. Most of young men are still forced to believe (or they choose to believe) that enrollment is a moment when they enter the world of »adults«. Conscientious objectors do not deny that there are a lot more young men in Serbia and Montenegro (at least in its northern parts) who want to enrol for the army but this fact gives no excuse for violation of the rights of objectors.
           
          Until a new law on the army and defence has been passed, and I hope that there will be a special law on civil service also, a few very simple things should be done. First, according to the present law, Yugoslav Defence Ministry can sign contracts with civilian institutions in which civil service can take place. There are a lot of such institutions. It is true that, according to that law, conscientious objectors would formally still be within the military system, but I believe that this first and and temporary measure would show that all sides have a good will to solve this problem. Second, if this option is not possible, conscientious objectors should not be compelled to do military service until a new law, clearly defining their rights, is not enacted.
           
          The relation to conscientious objectors is - as any other relation to religious, ethic or any other minorities, a mirror for democracy in this country. It is not they who talk openly about the problems who condemn this country, but those who want to diminish the problems or to sweep them under the carpet. The time does not work for former or latter, it does not for anybody of us.
           
        • Tags: Conscientious Objection, military service, civil service, Serbia, military, recruitment, Law
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