Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

Greece: Consequences of evading military service (January 2003 - March 2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 2 March 2006
Citation / Document Symbol GRC101043.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Greece: Consequences of evading military service (January 2003 - March 2006), 2 March 2006, GRC101043.E, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
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.

Military Service in Greece

Military service is compulsory for Greek men (Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers 2004; Freedom House 2005) who have the "physical and mental capacity to bear arms and respond to military life" (WRI Feb. 2005). Citing military legislation, the Website of the Ministry of National Defence states "that all Greek males, from the 1st January of their 19th year until the 31st December of their 45th year, are obliged to serve in the Armed Forces" (Greece n.d.; see also WRI Feb. 2005). Most Greek males perform their military service in their twenties, after which they are periodically called up to perform reserve duty (WRI Feb. 2005). Since 1 January 2004, soldiers are required to spend 12 months of service (Greece n.d.) in the Army, Navy, or Air Force (WRI Feb. 2005), and reserve officers of the three forces are required to serve for a total of 17 months (Greece n.d.).

Certain categories of men, such as those who are only children or are elder brothers of three or more children, or those who have already served in the military of neighbouring countries, are entitled to reduced service, while fathers of three or more children may be exempted from military service (Greece n.d.). On 7 July 2005, the Athens-based daily Kathimerini indicated that 55,000 Greek men had performed a reduced term of service due to family circumstances, but that the Ministry of Defence was investigating allegations that some of them had used false documentation to qualify for the reduction in service time.


In a 1 March 2006 telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a consular officer from the Embassy of the Hellenic Republic in Ottawa provided the following information on the civil consequences of draft evasion:

According to Articles 51 to 54 of Law No. 3421 of 12 December 2005, unofficially translated as "Military Service for the Greeks," those who evade compulsory military service will face several consequences, including the following:

– They will not receive a military certificate showing that they served in the army, which is a prerequisite for obtaining certain jobs;

– They cannot vote or be elected;

– If they pursue a professional career that requires a licence (such as medicine, law, etc.), they cannot get this licence; if they already possess such a licence, it will be revoked;

– They cannot be employed as civil servants;

– They cannot leave the country or work on a ship that sails outside Greek waters;

– They cannot obtain a passport; if they already have one, it cannot be extended;

– If they eventually decide to complete their military service, they must serve six months in addition to the time normally required;

– Once they complete their military service, the previously mentioned consequences are void and their record is cleared (Greece 1 Mar. 2006).

Further information on the legal consequences of draft evasion, including provisions contained in the Military Penal Code, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

In August 2005, Kathimerini published two articles that dealt with what was perceived as the growing phenomenon of military service evasion (Kathimerini 16 Aug. 2005; ibid. 18 Aug. 2005). According to the Deputy Defence Minister Yiannis Lambropoulos, two-thirds of conscripts in 2004 did not register for their service (Kathimerini 16 Aug. 2005), and only about three-fifths of those whose service is deferred actually ever serve (ibid. 18 Aug. 2005). Qualifying the Greek draft system as "'close to collapsing'," Lambropoulos stated that "punishment was rarely meted out to draft dodgers or to armed forces officials who would often issue forged certificates of exemption" (ibid. 16 Aug. 2005). Lambropoulos further claimed that the 17,482 draft dodgers living abroad and the 14,950 living in Greece in 2004 "have had nothing to fear" because the law prohibiting evasion is not adequately applied, but insisted that "[a]ll draft dodgers are being called up because [doing so] is our goal, [rather than] a punishment" (ibid. 18 Aug. 2005).

Conscientious Objection

Since 1997, Greeks have had the right to exercise conscientious objection (EBCO May 2004; Greece 5 Apr. 2004, Para. 678; see also Freedom House 2005), in which case they may fulfill their national duty by performing an alternative service, for a period of 23 months (International Religious Freedom Report 2005 8 Nov. 2005, Sec. 2) as stipulated by Law 2510/97 (WRI Feb. 2005; Greece 5 Apr. 2004). In April 2004, the Greek Government stated that as of June 2003, it had received 771 requests for conscientious objector status, and all but 13 of these requests were accepted (ibid.).

At least two sources described the length of the substitute service as "punitive" (AI 2005; WRI Feb. 2005; IHF 27 June 2005) and "discriminatory" (WRI Feb. 2005; IHF 27 June 2005). According to War Resisters' International (WRI), conscientious objector status can no longer be granted after one has begun or completed one's military service (WRI Feb. 2005). Furthermore, the status of conscientious objector is repealed for all those who refuse to perform the substitute service (WRI Feb. 2005).

According to the Greek Government, those who refuse to perform unarmed service must face the same consequences as those who refuse to perform armed military service: both are considered "insubordinate" (Greece 5 Apr. 2004), although further information on the sanctions for insubordination could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Specific Cases

WRI highlighted the cases of Lazaros Petromelidis, a conscientious objector who in 1999 served ten weeks of a four-year sentence for draft evasion and was sentenced to a twenty-month suspended sentence in 2003 for "insubordination" after he refused to perform a thirty-month substitute service (WRI Feb. 2005). In 2005, WRI reported that Petromelidis was "under imminent threat of arrest" after failing to appear before a naval Court on charges of insubordination (ibid.), after which he was sentenced in absentia to 2.5 years' imprisonment (AI 31 May 2005; WRI Feb. 2005), and Amnesty International (AI) reported that once caught, Petromelidis would have to serve a total of 50 months in jail (31 May 2005). Further information on the situation of Lazaros Petromelidis could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

In a letter submitted in response to cases reported by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Government of Greece stated the following concerning the case of Lazaros Petromelidis:

The prosecution of Mr. Petromelidis was an isolated event that resulted from his refusal to perform the alternative service required under the law in force at the time when he was recognized as a conscientious objector, and under no circumstances did it reflect the real picture of alternative service and human rights in Greece. Moreover, all the legal and practical aspects of this complex issue were at the time of the reply being examined, so Mr. Petromelidis – and probably others in a similar situation – would be given a second chance under the law to perform alternative service and thus have the charges of military offences having been committed withdrawn (UN 15 Mar. 2005).

In May 2003, a professional soldier by the name of Giorgios Monastiriotis refused an order to go to the Persian Gulf, citing his disagreement with waging war against Iraq (AI 31 May 2005; WRI Feb. 2005). He was arrested and appeared before a military court in September 2004, where he was sentenced to 40 months' incarceration (WRI Feb. 2005) for desertion (IHF 27 June 2005). He served 22 days of this sentence before being released until an appeal hearing (AI 31 May 2005). However, in January 2005 he was sentenced once again for desertion, but his five-month sentence (WRI Feb. 2005) was suspended pending the appeal (AI 31 May 2005). At the time of its report, WRI stated that Monastiriotis was awaiting his appeal trial (WRI Feb. 2005). More recent information on this case could not be found within time constraints.

In May 2005, four other conscientious objectors, three of whom were Jehovah's Witnesses, were awaiting appeal trials after they were sentenced to suspended incarcerations (ranging from six to twenty-four months) (AI 31 May 2005; WRI 18 May 2005).

In May 2005, AI cited a "landmark decision" by the Athens Military Court in allowing a conscientious objector of the Jehovah's Witness faith who was in pre-trial detention for insubordination "to apply for alternative civilian service" (11 May 2005, Sec. 2). Further details or corroboration of the details of this case could not be found within time constraints.

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 for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 31 May 2005. "Greece Has Broken European Consensus." (EUR25/009/2005) [Accessed 24 Feb. 2006]
_____. 11 May 2005. "Punished for Their Beliefs: How Conscientious Objectors Continue to Be Deprived of Their Rights." [Accessed 24 Feb. 2006]
_____. 2005. "Greece." Amnesty International Report 2005. [Accessed 22 Feb. 2006]

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. 2004. "Greece." Child Soldiers Global Report 2004. <> [Accessed 24 Feb. 2006]

European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO). May 2004. "Greece." Country Reports. [Accessed 22 Feb. 2006]

Freedom House. 2005. "Greece." Freedom in the World 2005. [Accessed 22 Feb. 2006]

Greece. 1 March 2006. Embassy of the Hellenic Republic in Ottawa. Telephone interview with a consular official.
_____. 5 April 2004. In United Nations. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant. Initial Report: Greece. (CCPR/C/GRC/2004/). European Country of Origin Information Network Website. [Accessed 24 Feb. 2006]
_____. N.d. Ministry of National Defence. "Military Service." [Accessed 22 Feb. 2006]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 27 June 2005. "Greece." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America Report 2005 (Events of 2004). [Accessed 27 Feb. 2006]

International Religious Freedom Report 2005. 8 November 2005. "Greece." United States Department of State. [Accessed 22 Feb. 2006]

Kathimerini [Athens]. 18 August 2005. Georgios Malouhos. "An Ailing Military Draft System." [Accessed 22 Feb. 2006]
_____. 16 August 2005. "Conscripts Failing to Sign Up." [Accessed 22 Feb. 2006]
_____. 7 July 2005. "Cheating Conscripts Targeted." [Accessed 22 Feb. 2006]

United Nations. 15 March 2005. Economic and Social Council. Civil and Political Rights, Including the Question of Religious Intolerance. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir.

Addendum: Summary of Cases Transmitted to Governments and Replies Received. (E/CN.4/2005/61/Add.1) European Country of Origin Information Network Website. [Accessed 24 Feb. 2006]

War Resisters' International (WRI). 18 May 2005. "Greece: Courts Go Mad: New Sentences Against Conscientious Objectors." [Accessed 24 Feb. 2006]
_____. February 2005. Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Greece: Human Rights Shortfalls. Report for the Human Rights Committee in Relation to Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [Accessed 22 Feb. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

An expert in Greek military matters at the Consulate of Greece in New York City could not respond to requests for information within time contraints.

Internet Sites, including: Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors, Athens News, Center on Conscience and War, Council of Europe, Courrier des Balkans, The Economist, Embassy of the Hellenic Republic in Ottawa, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Greek Army Recruiting Office, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Open Society Institute, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refworld 2005.

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 Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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