Russian conscript files claim with ECHR over alternative service - report
MOSCOW, May 18 (RAPSI) - Sergei Kholkin, a Russian conscript from Murmansk, filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) alleging that he had been deprived of his right to perform alternative service, Kommersant newspaper reported on Monday.
Kholkin’s case, based on his refusal to serve because of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, is unique because it is the first instance of a Russian national addressing the Strasbourg court with a complaint on the violation of an individual’s personal right to freedom of belief after being denied alternative military service, the newspaper reports. In Russia, Kholkin could face criminal liability for avoiding the draft.
In Russia citizens who cannot carry weapons due to their faith or beliefs as well as low population and indigenous people involved in traditional trades may choose alternative forms of military service.
According to ECHR case materials, Kholkin decided to pursue his right to alternative military service in September 2014. He refused to serve because of the events in eastern Ukraine. However, a special board concluded that his pacifist beliefs did not contradict military service as they were not strong enough. The board stated that Kholkin was not a dedicated pacifist as he himself said that he came to his beliefs only last summer as he watched the news from Donbas. The board’s conclusion was similar to various Murmansk court rulings.
In his complaint, Kholkin states that the actions of Russian officials violate Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantee freedom of conscience.