2.3.2 Documentation

A charateristic feature of a society which has obligatory military service is the importance throughout life of military documentation.

The system in Paraguay has been described in some detail. After registration for obligatory military service (usually referred to by the acronym SMO), citizens hold one of three distinct levels of military documentation: The boleta de enroliamento is the document which the citizen receives in the act of registration for SMO, prior to medical inspection and incorporation into active service. The boleta de aplazamiento is the authorisation given at the time of registration which permits the deferment on justified reasons of incorporation into active service. The SMO booklet (libreta), commonly known as the baja, is the final certification granted to those who have complied with the SMO obligation or been definitively exempted. [1] (With the recognition of conscientious objection, a further document, the carné de objector, was subsequently added to this list.)

The details may be local, but the general concept, even the idea of the booklet, cuts across cultures. An equivalent term is, for example, used in South-East Europe. [2]

In Paraguay, as in many other Latin American countries, obligatory military service was historically enforced largely by random checks for this documentation. Those who were not able to produce it on demand were in danger of forced recruitment. In other countries, for instance Turkey, it seems that draft dodgers are not systematically pursued, but whenever in a routine contact with the police it emerges that a man's military documentation is not in order he will be apprehended and be obliged to report to barracks and face prosecution.

For in fact proof of military service is needed for all sorts of contact with the public authorities. Some examples [3] are:

  • Obtaining identity documents - Armenia, Bolivia, Brazil, Eritrea
  • Residence permits - Armenia
  • passport - Eritrea, Morocco, Turkey
  • Exit visa - Eritrea, Yemen
  • Driving licences - Eritrea, USA (registration for military service required in some states, even when no draft enforced)
  • University entrance - Bolivia, and funding - USA, or the award of a degree - Yemen
  • Public housing (this sometimes leading to evictions) - Eritrea
  • Marriage registration - Armenia, Turkey
  • Business licences - Eritrea
  • Voting rights - Brazil, Bolivia 
  • Employment (particularly in the public sector) - Morocco

Similarly, certain jobs are (or were) advertised in the Bosnian Federation as requiring regular military service to have been done.

Advantageous terms of employment - in Singapore Individuals who have completed national (military or non-military) service enjoy higher starting salaries, tax incentives and other government-sponsored perks.[4]

Although in principle the requirement may be that the military status should have been properly regulated, difficulties may in practice face those who have been excused performance of military service on perfectly legal grounds, especially of course when the discrimination in society at large already extends beyond what is sanctioned by law. In Israel, for example, According to the Section 2 of the Equal Opportunity for Employment Law-1988, it is unlawful for an employer to ask an employment seeker or current employee whether or not he served in the military. In practice, anyone who has not served in the military has little chance to be employed in the public sector. [5] Obviously, too, anyone who has refused military service can be placed at a life-long disadvantage; the implications for conscientious objectors are discussed in Section 4.9, below.

  • [1] SERPAJ (Servicio Paz y Justicia)-Paraguay (1995), Los niños-soldados de Paraguay: Investigación sobre los soldados menores de edad (Unpublished case study for the United Nations' study on the impact of armed conflict on children (the Machel Report)
  • [2] Prigovor za Mir (Regional Network Objection for Peace) (2004) Comparative study on the existing models of civilian service in the region - future models of civilian service for the countries of the region
  • [3] Sources for entries in this list are General Counsel of Jehovah's Witnesses, response to OHCHR questionnaire 2003; Child Soldiers Global Report 2004  (Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, London); CHAMBER JUDGMENT ÜLKE v. TURKEY(application no. 39437/98) Press release issued by the Registrar, European Court of Human Rights, 24.1.06; Prigovor za Mir (Regional Network Objection for Peace) (2004) Comparative study on the existing models of civilian service in the region - future models of civilian service for the countries of the region
  • [4] General Counsel of Jehovah's Witnesses, response to OHCHR questionnaire 2003 (Singapore)
  • [5] Ibid. (Israel)