July 03-28, 2017 IFOR's Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva attended the 120th Session of the Human Rights Committee. This synopsis is taken from notes provided by IFOR's Fellow in Geneva, Martina Lanza.
The HR Committee reviewed the implementation of civilian and political rights in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Honduras, Mongolia and Swaziland. IFOR attended the meetings on Switzerland, Honduras and Mongolia reviews.
IFOR's Fellow in Geneva, Martina Lanza, was joined by Janine Rey, a member of IFOR's branch in Switzerland who serves on its Youth Council.
Concerning Switzerland, IFOR has submitted information to be considered for the adoption into the List of Issues prior to reporting (LoIPR). IFOR's main concerns are as follows:
- - The Law on Civilian Service sets a duration for civilian service which appears to be discriminatory and punitive by comparison with that of military service; moreover amendments which took effect early in 2011 represent a move away from recognised best practices and international standards with regard to conscientious objection to military service.
- - Switzerland retains a “military exemption tax” which is imposed on male citizens who do not perform military service. This provision is discriminatory and impinges on conscientious objectors to military service in their exercise of their freedom of thought, conscience and religion under article 18 of the Covenant.
- - Revisions to the Asylum Law are currently under consideration which have the explicit intention of debarring from its provisions conscientious objectors and others who are seeking asylum in order to escape military service in countries where there is no provision for conscientious objectors.
Unfortunately, during the dialogue with the State party, the Committee has not approached topic of conscientious objection and related issues. As a consequence, Concluding Observations do not included these issues.
Concerning Honduras, IFOR raised concerns regarding the recruitment of children by both uniformed armed forces and by Maras or gangs. The following points were highlighted:
- Children are not recruited only by Maras or gangs, also the Armed forces could conscripted them, especially in wartime. There is no provision in place that states that, even in times of war, only persons over the age of 18 may could join the Armed Forces.
- The Honduran Constitution provision establishes a voluntary military service in peacetime; but also establishes that “in the event of an international war, all Hondurans able to defend and serve their country shall be considered to be soldiers”.
- The State itself identified the legal lacuna: “The absence of criminal legislation that makes it a specific, separate offense to practice compulsory recruitment or to grant permission for persons under the age of 18 to join the Armed Forces (whether in times of peace or in times of war) represents a significant legal shortcoming”.
- Moreover, since 2012, the Armed Forces are running the programme “Guardians of the Fatherland” (Guardianes de la Patria) addressed to children from 7 years of age.
- The aim is to training 25,000 children annually, and "instilling in young people, especially those at social risk, moral, religious and spiritual principles and values”.
- Therefore children participate in activities and performances carried out by military units and in installations of the armed forces.
All IFOR’s concerns were addressed by the Committee and specific questions were asked during the dialogue with the state party. The Committee also echoed concerns in it's concluding observations.
IFOR's Representatives followed the discussion concerning Mongolia closely. In its List of Issues (CCPR/C/MNG/Q/6), the Committee asked to clarify whether: (a) the right to conscientious objection to military service is guaranteed in law and in practice to all individuals who are required by law to perform military service; (b) the length of alternative service is equal to the duration of military service and, if not, explain the reasons that justify such difference (para 19).
In its Concluding observations (Advance Unedited Version), the Committee expressed concern about disproportionate restrictions imposed by the 2015 Elections Act on the right to stand for elections, including disqualification of candidates for overdue debts or taxes, not having completed compulsory military service (para. 39).
Therefore, the Committee recommended to State party to remove restrictions on the right to participate in public life (para. 40). This is the only reference to conscientious objection, no recommendation has been held about the leigh of alternative service.
IFOR's Representatives also attended public meetings on the general comment on article 6 ICCPR (Right to life). Indeed, the Committee is working on the establish of a new general comment. The meetings attended focused on the death penalty and the Relationship between article 6 with other articles of the Covenant.
During this session, the Committee finalized its first reading of draft General Comment and invites all interested stakeholders to comment on the Committee’s Draft.
Finally, IFOR attended all the public technical meetings on the working methodology.
 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Honduras’ Initial report on the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, CRC/C/OPAC/HND/1, 2nd September 2014, para. 89.
 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Honduras’ Replies to the List of Issues in relation to the initial report oo the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, CRC/C/OPAC/HND/Q/1/Add.1, 7th May 2015, para. 14 (only in Spanish).