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Baltic States: Conscripts' Rights Infringed, Says Report.

  • Anthony Georgieff



Copenhagen, July 31 (RFE/RL) -- Baltic region defense commanders systematically fail to preserve basic human rights for conscript armies, according to a Baltic States Human Rights Commissioner's preliminary report.

Ole Espersen, a former Danish justice minister and former Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, has collected armed forces data since September, 1995. His final report is expected to be published in about two months, after its findings and recommendations have been examined by the Baltic states governments.

His preliminary report, quoted by the Danish press (Berlingske Tidende) says that a number of failures to observe stringent standards of human rights for conscripts has been recorded in Germany and Scandinavia. Human rights protections for conscripts are worse in Russia, Poland and the three Baltic Republics, he says.

Among human rights shortcomings against conscripts in the Baltic region's new democracies is failure to provide clear-cut complaints systems. Often, he says, conscripts have no means of advancing complaints except through their immediate superiors, who often are the subjects of the complaints.

All former Warsaw Pact state armies directly interfere with the political inclinations of their conscripts. In Russia, for example, membership in political groups or parties is forbidden. Espersen says conscripts thus are deprived of a basic human right of citizens.

In the East and West, armies are traditionally closed systems with their own rules. The former Communist states have failed to reform political systems denying soldiers basic protections, says Espersen. In Scandinavia and Germany, conscripts are guaranteed the same human rights as other members of society.

He singles out Denmark as in the first third of nations with regard to human rights for conscripts. However, even there, problems persist. Last year, at a military base in Greenland, Danish soldiers were discovered hazing newer conscripts. The case created a much publicized scandal.

The Council of Baltic States, founded shortly after the fall of Communism, comprises Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Russia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland.
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