Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Military service requirements; exemptions; penalties for failing to respond to call-up; available amnesty; whether citizens of the former Yugoslavia who used to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina before the civil war and who refused to perform military service are still required to serve; conscientious objection/alternative service opportunities

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 October 2003
Citation / Document Symbol BOS41876.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Military service requirements; exemptions; penalties for failing to respond to call-up; available amnesty; whether citizens of the former Yugoslavia who used to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina before the civil war and who refused to perform military service are still required to serve; conscientious objection/alternative service opportunities, 1 October 2003, BOS41876.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/403dd1e58.html [accessed 19 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Article 1.3 of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Constitution identifies the state as a federation of two Entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and the Republika Srpska (RS) (OHR 2 Apr. 2003a). While both Entities must adhere to the BiH constitution, Annex 4 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Peace Agreement) provides both FBiH and RS with the right to pass legislation on issues not otherwise assigned to the federal institutions of BiH (OHR 14 Dec. 1995, Art. III.2-3). Military affairs is enshrined in each of the Entities' constitutions (BIH 26 Sept. 2001a Art. III.1.a; ibid. 26 Sept. 2001b, Art. 106-107). As a result, the two Entities have separate defence laws and maintain their own armies (CSC n.d.)

Conscription

In the FBiH, military service is regulated by the Law on Defence of the FBiH (OHR 2 Apr. 2003b) and the 1997 Rule Book on Compulsory Military Service and Civil Service (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002). Military service in the RS is covered by the 1996 Law on Defence of the RS (ibid.; OHR 2 Apr. 2003a) and the Law on the Military (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002), which is also called the Law on the Army (OHR 27 July 1999).

Articles 65-114 of the Law on Defence, regulate issues of military service, conscientious objection and the obligations of Federation citizens (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002). Under Article 65, all FBiH citizens have the obligation to report for medical examinations at the age of 17 to determine their ability to perform military service (ibid.; CSC n.d.). Should the Conscription Commission establish them as fit they are generally drafted into the FBiH military at the age of 18 for a period of 12 months (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002; CSC n.d.). On 28 May 2002, the length of required service was reduced to six months (ONASA 28 May 2002) and in an effort to cut costs, Federation officials later announced that those drafted in January 2003 were to be dismissed 30 days early (ibid. 22 May 2003). Similarly, those drafted in April 2003 were to be released 30 days early for from compulsory service (BHTV1 14 Aug. 2003).

In the RS, Articles 201 through 232 of the Law on Defence regulate conscription (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002). Initially, Article 215 provided that the length of service was nine months, but RS officials reduced this to six months in 2001 (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002). Bosnian Serb Defence Ministry spokesperson Branko Trkulja stated on 21 August 2003 that service in the RS was to be further reduced to four months by January 2004 (ONASA 21 Aug. 2003), and, as in the FBiH, January 2003 draftees in RS were allowed to leave service 30 days early (SRNA 18 June 2003).

Exemptions

According to Transitions Online, the Dayton Peace Agreement mandated that minorities within each Entity were to be exempt from military service (18 Oct. 2002a). However, 12 non-Serbs reportedly were drafted into the RS military service in 2003 (BH Radio 1 23 May 2003). Exemptions from military service other than those falling within conscientious objector criteria (see below) are available to those persons found to be incapacitated, for naturalized persons who served in the armed forces of another country before the age of 27 and for persons who completed training at a police or military academy (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002).

Failure to Respond

Failure to respond is regulated by the criminal codes of the FBiH and RS (BiH 20 Nov. 1998; ibid. 31 July 2000). For the relevant articles in each Entity's criminal code, please consult the electronic attachment of this Response. In addition, the FBiH Law on Defence stipulates that the Ministry may recruit by force individuals failing to respond and may impose fines while in the RS, they may be punished with 60 days imprisonment or receive a fine (CSC n.d.),

1999 Amnesty Laws and Situation of Returnees

A framework for the amnesty of all individuals who evaded the military draft, deserted or refused call-up during the conflict in BiH is provided in Article VI of Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Agreement (OHR 14 Dec. 1995; UNHCR Sept. 2001, 11). Subsequently, RS legislated an amended version of its 1996 Law on Amnesty on 23 August 1999, while the FBiH followed suit on 11 December 1999 (ibid., 12). Both documents grant amnesty for crimes committed between 1 January 1991 and 22 December 1995, including the failure to respond to a call-up or draft (UNMIBH June 2000, 2.1; ibid. Dec. 1999, App. II). A copy of the amended RS Law on Amnesty is annexed to the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina's (UNMIBH) June 2000 report entitled "Amnesty and Return," while the amended version of the FBiH's Law on Amnesty is appended to the December 1999 UNMIBH document "On Arrest Warrants, Amnesty and Trials in Absentia" (ibid. June 2000, Annex 1; ibid. Dec. 1999, App. II).

With respect to the situation of returnees, point 10 of the 3 February 1998 Sarajevo Declaration committed both Entity governments to exempting returnees from any form of conscription for a period of five years (OHR 3 Feb. 1998; UNHCR Sept. 2001, 12). That said, inaccurate local citizenship records "appears to have resulted in a number of recorded cases of conscription ... of displaced persons" (ibid., 12-13). As mentioned above, in May 2003, 12 non-Serb returnees to the RS were reportedly drafted into military service (BH Radio 1 23 May 2003).

Conscientious Objection/Alternative Service

Point 10 of the February 1998 Sarajevo Declaration compelled the RS and the FBiH implement conscientious objection and alternative service legislation (OHR 3 Feb. 1998; UNHCR Sept. 2001, 12). If based on moral or religious grounds (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002), citizens of the FBiH have such rights enshrined in Articles 72 and 81 through 94 of the Law on Defence, while citizens of the RS are similarly entitled by Articles 215 through 219 of the Law on the Military (OHR 27 July 1999). However, as the UNHCR noted in 2001, efforts to implement the law were incomplete and unsatisfactory (Sept. 2001, 12-13). Since that time, however, the Entities have provided applicants the ability to apply to a civil service commission, which, under the legal criteria for conscientious objection, decides on their eligibility for alternative service (FENA 15 May 2002; Transitions Online 18 Oct. 2002b).

Alternative service in the RS last for 12 months (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002), and those approved may be employed by the military's civilian or non-combatant sectors, including the press centre, agriculture, health and the rehabilitation of those who became disabled during the war" (Transitions Online 18 Oct. 2002a). According to Robert Jandric, an alternative service advocate in RS, military centres do not always provide information on civil service alternatives (ibid.). A legal assistant to the RS Defence Ministry also observed that "ministry employees are not always aware of the legal option of civil service" (ibid.). Even so, the RS authorized the first person to perform alternative service in November 2002 (AFP 16 Nov. 2002). In 2003, reports mentioned objectors who had begun performing alternative service, including one in a Prijedor museum (ibid; 18 Feb. 2003; OSCE 30 May 2003), a second for a Banja Luka-based NGO and a third case who also been approved but not yet put into service (ibid.).

In the FBiH, at 24 months, the length of alternative civil service is twice that required for military service (SEE-RAN 25 Apr. 2002). In October 2002, Transitions Online reported that more than 40 environmental and human rights groups, rehabilitation centres and education centres had applied to the Defence Ministry to employ applicants (18 Oct. 2002b). In May 2003, Federation officials announced that it had received 600 demands for conscientious objection – most from Serb returnees to the Entity (BH Radio 1 23 May 2003); by July, over 300 of those 600 individuals had received authorization to perform alternative service in FBiH (Federation Radio 7 July 2003). However, officials had not identified where this service was to be undertaken (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France Presse (AFP). 18 February 2003. Tanja Subotic. "Bosnia's First Conscientious Objector on Guard at Museum." (NEXIS)
_____. 16 November 2002. "First Bosnian Serb to Serve Alternative Military Service." (NEXIS)

BH Radio 1 [Sarajevo, in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian]. 23 May 2003. Radmila Grubisa. "Bosnia: Requests on Rise for Returnees to Do National Service in Own Entities." (BBC Monitoring 24 May 2003/NEXIS)

BHTV1 [Sarajevo, in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian]. 14 August 2003. "Bosnian Federation Army Cuts Recruits' Military Service by One Month." (BBC Monitoring 15 Aug. 2003/NEXIS)

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). 26 September 2001a. Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Official Gazette. No. 1/94 and 13/97. Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Accessed 30 Sept. 2003]
_____. 26 September 2001b. Republika Srpska. Official Gazette. No. 1/94 and 13/97. Constitution of the Republika Srpska. [Accessed 30 Sept. 2003]
_____. 31 July 2000. Republika Srpska. Criminal Code of the Republika Srpska. [Accessed 22 Sept. 2003]
_____. 20 November 1998. Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Criminal Code of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Accessed 19 Sept. 2003]

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (CSC). n.d. "Bosnia and Herzegovina." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2003]

Federation News Agency (FENA) [Sarajevo]. 15 May 2002. "Bosnian Serbs Preparing to Introduce Civilian Military Service." (BBC Monitoring/NEXIS)

Federation Radio [Sarajevo, in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian]. 7 July 2003. "First Bosnian Conscientious Objectors Receive Approval to Serve as Civilians." (BBC Monitoring 8 July 2003/NEXIS)

Office of the High Representative (OHR, Sarajevo). 2 April 2003a. Decision Enacting the Law on Amendments to the Law on Defence of Republika Srpska. [Accessed 22 Sept. 2003]
_____. 2 April 2003b. Decision Enacting the Law on Amendments to the Law on Defence of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Accessed 22 Sept. 2003]
_____. 27 July 1999. "Conscientious Objection to Military Service." (Press Release) [Accessed 23 Sept. 2003]
_____. 3 February 1998. "Sarajevo Declaration, 3 February 1998." [Accessed 22 Sept. 2003]
_____. 14 December 1995. General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Accessed 22 Sept. 2003]

ONASA [Sarajevo]. 21 August 2003. "Bosnian Serb Ministry Announces Reduction in Military Service to Four Months." (BBC Monitoring/NEXIS)
_____. 22 May 2003. "Earlier Dismissal of Soldiers from BiH Federation Army - FBiH Gov't." (BBC Monitoring 23 May 2003/NEXIS)
_____. 28 May 2002. "Bosnian Federation Cuts Military Service from 12 to 6 Months." (BBC Monitoring/NEXIS)

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). 30 May 2003. Vedrana Dimitrijevic. "Farewell to Arms: Conscientious Objectors in RS." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2003]

South East European Refugee Assistance Network (SEE-RAN). 25 April 2002. "Military Service and Conscientious Objection." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2003]

SRNA [Bijeljina, in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian]. 18 June 2003. "Bosnian Serb President Issues Decree on Reduction of Military Service." (BBC Monitoring/NEXIS)

Transitions Online [Prague]. 18 October 2002a. Dragan Stanimirovic. "Silencing the Military's Drumbeat." (Dialog)
_____. 18 October 2002b. Beth Kampschror. "Objecting to Conscientious Objectors." (Dialog)

United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH). June 2000. Judicial System Assessment Programme (JSAP). "Amnesty and Return: A Report on Implementation of Amnesty Legislation in the RS." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2003]
_____. December 1999. Judicial System Assessment Programme (JSAP). "Thematic Report III: On Arrest Warrants, Amnesty and Trials in Absentia." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2003]

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). September 2001. UNHCR's Position on Categories of Persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina in Continued Need of International Protection. [Accessed 24 Sept. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including:

Balkan Human Rights List Serve

Balkan Human Rights Web

Humanitarian Law Center

Republic of Srpska, Government Website

Republic of Srpska, Ministry of Defence

Electronic Attachments

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). 21 July 2000. Republika Srpska. Criminal Code of the Republika Srpska. [Accessed 22 Sept. 2003]

Criminal Code of the Republika Srpska

Evasion of a Summons to Military Service

Article 300

(1) Whoever hides himself in order to evade recruiting, compulsory military service, military conscription for the war assignment, military training or any other military duty, even though he has been summoned by an individual or general call-up, shall be fined or punished by imprisonment term not exceeding two year.

(2) Whoever escapes abroad or remains abroad with a view to evading the military duties mentioned under paragraph 1 of this article, shall be punished by imprisonment term ranging between six months and five years.

(3) Whoever calls on or incites a number of persons to commit the offense described under paragraph 1 or 2 of this article, shall be punished for the offense defined under paragraph 1 of this article by imprisonment term not exceeding one year, and for the offense defined under paragraph 2 by imprisonment term ranging between six months and five years.

(4) Perpetrator of the offense referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this article who voluntarily reports himself to the competent state authorities may have his punishment reduced or remitted.

Evasion of Military Service by Self-Mutilation or Deceit

Article 301

(1) Whoever, with intention to evade military service or be assigned to an easier duty, maims or otherwise temporarily disables himself or permits another to temporarily disable him for military service, as well as the one who, with his consent, temporarily disables the person with the same intention, shall be punished by imprisonment term not exceeding three years.

(2) If permanent disability for military service resulted from the commission of the offense described under paragraph 1 of this article, or another had been disabled for military service without his consent, the perpetrator shall be punished by imprisonment term ranging between one and eight years.

(3) Whoever with the same intention as said under paragraph 1 of this article simulates a sickness or for himself or other uses false document or acts in any other deceitful way, shall be punished by imprisonment term not exceeding three years.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). 20 November 1998. Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Criminal Code of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Accessed 19 Sept. 2003]

Criminal Code of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Evasion of a Summons to Military Service

Article 382

(1) Whoever has hidden himself in order to evade military conscription for the war assignment, or for the compulsory military service, military training or any other military duty at the appointed time, in spite of being summoned by an individual or general call-up, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.

(2) Whoever escapes abroad or remains abroad with a view to evade the recruitment, military service, drill or any other military duty, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term between six months and five years.

(3) A perpetrator of the offense referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3 of this Article who voluntarily reports to the military authorities may have his/her punishment reduced or remitted.

Evasion of Military Service by Self-Mutilation or Deceit

Article 383

(1) Whoever, for the purpose of evading military service or being assigned to an easier duty, maims or otherwise temporarily disables himself or permits another to temporarily disable him/her for military service, or simulates an illness or uses a false document or acts in some other deceptive way, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.

(2) Whoever, with or without consent of another, inflicts a bodily injury on another or otherwise disables him/her for military service with the intention to evade military service or another military obligation, or on behalf of another uses a false document with the same intention or acts in some other deceptive way shall be punished by imprisonment for a term between six months and five years.

(3) If lasting disability for military service resulted from the commission of the offense described under paragraph 2 of this Article, the perpetrator shall be punished by imprisonment for a term between one year and ten years.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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