Population: 46.5 million (9.1 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 187,600
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 19
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 11 July 2005
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182
Orphans and the children of military personnel could be given intensive preparation for military careers from the age of 15, and 17-year-olds could enrol in a higher military education institution.
In April 2005 Ukraine launched an intensified dialogue with NATO but extensive military reform was necessary before it could enter into full NATO membership. In a 2006 defence policy paper, Ukraine outlined plans for transition to a non-conscript army by 2010, as well as improving social benefits for troops and modernizing equipment.1
Amendments to the Criminal Code in January 2006 brought Ukraine closer in line with the Optional Protocol. Imprisonment of up to 12 years was introduced for the use of trafficked children in an armed conflict, the same offence being punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment if committed by an organized gang (Article 149).
National recruitment legislation and practice
An amendment to the 1999 Law on Military Duty and Military Service, adopted in March 2005, reduced the conscription pool. Previously, men between the ages of 18 and 27 were liable for conscription, but the new law set an upper age limit of 25 years. It also reduced the length of service for conscripts: from 24 months to 18 in the navy, and from 18 months to 12 in the army and air force, with university graduates serving nine months and junior commanders three.
Voluntary contracts in the armed forces of up to three years were available to men and women between the ages of 19 and 30.2
There was no reduction in the length of alternative service for conscientious objectors, which remained punitive at 27 months.3 A list of ten minority religious groups whose members were eligible to apply had been specified in a 1999 government decree.4 Objectors from Jewish or majority faiths, or who were not religious, had no alternative to compulsory military service.
In November 2006 the UN Human Rights Committee considered Ukraine's sixth report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and noted that the right to conscientious objection against mandatory military service should be fully respected, for those of all religions as well as non-religious conscientious objectors. The Committee also noted that new recruits in the armed forces were still subject to hazing – systematic abuse and humiliation by longer-serving or senior soldiers which sometimes involved acts of considerable violence. One recruit in Zhytomyr region had died as a result of hazing in January 2005. The Committee urged Ukraine to ensure that hazing stopped, by adopting disciplinary measures against the soldiers responsible and facilitating the intervention of independent monitors such as the Ombudsman.5
Military training and military schools
Young people could enrol for training in a higher military education institution between the ages of 17 and 21.6 Potential officers could enrol between the ages of 18 and 23. In 2005 the Ministry of Defence announced the closure of 23 higher military schools by 2009, among them the Mikolaiv Military Motor College and the Vasilkiv Air Force College.7 All higher military education for ground troops was in future to be concentrated in one national university at Lviv. Among reasons given for the closures were falling enrolments and students' need for vocational skills which they could transfer to civilian life.8
At least one secondary-school offered two years' intensive military preparation from the age of 15, specifically for orphans and the children of military personnel. The orphans' secondary-school in the Crimean town of Alushta reported that in 2004, 90 per cent of its former students had gone on to a career in the armed forces.9
In October 2007 Ukraine endorsed the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The two documents, which were previously endorsed by 59 states at a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, reaffirmed international standards and operational principles for the protection of and assistance to child soldiers, following a wide-ranging global consultation jointly sponsored by the French government and UNICEF.
In July 2005 Ukraine ratified the Optional Protocol, stating in its declaration that 19 was the minimum age for voluntary enlistment.10
3 1999 Law on Alternative Service, No. 3108 15, as amended on 17 November 2005, cited in Conscience and Peace Tax International, Submission to UN Human Rights Committee, 22 June 2006, www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/ngos/CPTI.pdf; Marc Stolwijk, The Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe: A Review of the Current Situation, Quaker Council for European Affairs, April 2005, http://www.quaker.org/qcea/coreport.
4 Cabinet of Ministers Decree No. 2066/199.
5 UN Human Rights Committee, Consideration of sixth report submitted by Ukraine, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CCPR/C/UKR/CO/6, 28 November 2006.
6 Ministry of Defence, above note 2, Military Education.
7 Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 381 of 26 May 2005.
10 Declaration on accession to the Optional Protocol, www2.ohchr.org.