Chairman of Azerbaijani parliament’s commission: We can suspend the law on alternative service during war

Chairman of Azerbaijani parliament’s commission: We can suspend the law on alternative service during war
# 21 February 2008 13:56 (UTC +04:00)
Baku. Elbrus Seyfullayev-APA. Chairman of Azerbaijani parliament’s commission on legal policy and statehood Ali Huseynov interviewed by APA

-One of the commitments taken by Azerbaijan vis-à-vis the Council of Europe is the adoption of the law on alternative service. But the notion of alternative service is still unclear for the majority of the people. Could you give thorough explanation about the alternative service?
-Alternative service is a civil service substituting military service due to the person’s religious belief. First of all, I should say that this issue is not new for our legislation. When Azerbaijan’s Constitution was adopted in 1995, there was a notion of alternative service. In 2002, this article was amended along with some issues, when Azerbaijan’s Constitution was conformed to the European Convention on Human Rights. The notion “alternative military service” in the Constitution was substituted by “alternative service”. It means that there is a notion of alternative service in our legislation. Performance of the service, its term and other issues will be determined after the law on alternative service is adopted.
-How urgent is the issue on the alternative service in Azerbaijan?
-As far as I know, courts have not been appealed in connection with violation of freedom of conscience in Azerbaijan. This is a positive fact. It is groundless to make agiotage. Agiotage can be made, if a lot of citizens appeal to courts in connection with it. Though the national legislation covers this issue and there is no problem in practice, it should be regulated through law. This issue should be detailed in the law. If such cases happen, relevant bodies should investigate the fact in the framework of the law. Adoption of the law on alternative service is the commitment taken by Azerbaijan vis-à-vis the Council of Europe, and will indicate that protection of human rights is the main goal in Azerbaijan as a democratic country. It means that if a person wants to do civil service substituting military service, his rights should be protected.
-How close is the notion of alternative service to the notion of “construction battalion” existed in soviet army?
-It is an interesting case. During Soviet times persons doing their military service in construction sites never held weapons. And this is close to the alternative service. Contradiction in terms of belief mainly appears when a citizen states that holding weapons contradicts his religious belief.
-Is it possible to use arm against somebody for religious belief?
-I am not religious specialist. Bu I think that, it is impossible to use arm against somebody for religious belief. There may be claims. I can say that, there is not direct ban in any religion. We may come across with it in untraditionally sects. For example, “Jehovah’s witnesses “have serious problems on this issue. I think that, we have not such problem.
-Quran Al-Karim says that, fight for the liberation of your occupied lands.
-Yes, you are right. Adoption of this law does not contradict religious outlook and national moral of Azerbaijanis.1or 2 % of draftees appeal to the Court on this issue in Russia.
-Will opinions of military specialists be taken into account during adoption of the law?
-We should respect to opinions of servicemen during adoption of the law. Servicemen are against this law in several countries. May be it will be so in our country. I have not heard from them about it. I think that, law on Alternative service should be understood as a part of reforms which carried out for the arm formation. Alternative service aims to protect human rights. Those who are in Alternative service support the arm formation. I think that, this experiment is very interesting and it is worth learning.
-How long alternative service should last?
-May be, we touched upon this issue seriously. Somebody can want 2,3 or 4 years for alternative service. I can say that, alternative service can not be punishment. If we carry out alternative service in terms of protection of human rights, we can not impose punishment. We should be careful during the discussions of the bill. There should be such Article in the law on the cancellation of alternative service during wart and emergencies. It is possible to adopt this law. Human rights can be protected with help of this law and it did not cause damage to arm formation.
-There are concerns that, some people will dodge military service under pretext of alternative service…
-In can say that, this right will be given to citizen by court .Thus, the issue can not be solved in military registration department. This should be proved before the court. All issues on this field will be reflected in the law. On the other hand, local courts can apply it basing on precedent right of European Court of Human Rights. I can say that, there are few such situations in Azerbaijan. I consider that, if we apply international experiment correctly, the adoption of the law will be interesting in terms of promotion of arm formation.
-When will the bill be discussed?
-It would be better to discuss the bill in spring session of Parliament. Working Group is working on the bill seriously. I do not see principal contradiction here. It is important to discuss the bill publicly. Military service is duty of every Azerbaijani. Neither moral values nor religious belief impedes it. Though several persons spoke about the law, they mentioned Nagorno Karabakh conflict. There is not any relation between the law and the conflict. We can bring the law ineffective during the war.