UNHCR is pleased to share the recently released Guidelines on International Protection No. 10: Claims to Refugee Status related to Military Service within the context of Article 1A (2) of the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, available at http://www.refworld.org/docid/529ee33b4.html.
The Guidelines examine the situation of individuals who seek international protection to avoid military service either by the State armed forces or by non-State armed groups and among the issues addressed are:
– Objection to military service for reasons of conscience, where the consequences for not conducting that military service, such as prosecution and disproportionate punishment, amount to persecution. Where alternative service is available but is punitive because of the type of service involved or its disproportionate duration, the issue of persecution may also arise.
– Objection to military service in conflict, which is contrary to the basic rules of human conduct. The objection may be based on the illegality of the conflict or on the conduct of one of the parties to the conflict such that there is a reasonable likelihood of the applicant being forced to participate in acts that violate standards prescribed by international law.
– Objection to the conditions of State military service, for example where the terms or conditions of service amount to torture or other cruel or inhuman treatment, violations of the right to security and integrity of person, or involve forced or compulsory labour, or forms of slavery (including sexual slavery).
– Forced recruitment and/or conditions of service in non-State armed groups. As non-State armed groups are not entitled to recruit by coercion or force, an individual may be eligible for refugee status where the State is unable or unwilling to protect him or her against such recruitment. Likewise, the conditions of such service may amount to persecution.
– Cases involving children unlawfully recruited into military service or being forced to participate in hostilities. All recruitment and use of children in hostilities below the age of 15, whether voluntary or forced, within State armed forces or non-State armed groups, is prohibited under international law. As a result, a child evading forced recruitment or prosecution and/or punishment or other forms of retaliation for desertion would generally have a well-founded fear of persecution.
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