In Belarus, young people who refuse to serve in the army and take up arms are referred to by the stigmatizing word “evader”, a term originating from the Soviet Union. The implication is that these individuals are simply evading the duty of “repaying one’s debt to the Homeland” in the form of universal compulsory military service (a concept dating back to the 18th century).

But it seems that soon conscientious objectors in Belarus will be labeled as “deserters”. At least, state propagandists are already actively promoting this. According to them, there’s war all around, and Belarus is getting prepared. It has even brought in nuclear weapons, yet these individuals refuse to take up arms! They are deserters!

But until the “renaming” takes place, conscientious objectors to military service are being tried, and quite frequently. In early December 2022, Belarus witnessed the occurrence of two such court proceedings simultaneously.

In the first case, a 25-year-old resident of the city of Baranovichi received a military draft notice but failed to appear at the enlistment office at the specified time, which led to the initiation of a criminal case against him. The young man explained his absence by his departure to Russia for work purposes.

As a result, they decided to punish him demonstratively and publicly, as is now customary in Belarus regarding conscientious objectors to military service.  The trial was held as a field court session. “For educational purposes”, students from the local colleges of light industry, technological college, and construction college were present in the courtroom. In the end, the Baranovichi District and City Court fined the young man 50 base units (1,600 Belarusian rubles or approximately 468 euros) for evading conscription.

The defendant fully admitted his guilt. The young man explained that he received the draft notice but did not appear at the military enlistment office. However, there were no valid reasons for this,” says the government-affiliated local media outlet “Nash Kray” citing Senior Assistant to the Baranovichi Interdistrict Prosecutor Svetlana Pasemko.

Almost simultaneously, a similar trial took place in the Stolin district. However, there is much less information available about it. There, the prosecution supported the state’s charges against a 27-year-old Belarusian who evaded conscription.

Back in 2020, he was handed a summons, requiring him to appear at the military enlistment office at a designated time. However, he ignored the requirement and went to work in Russia. Since December 2020, the young man was in search, but in the summer, he was apprehended by Russian law enforcement.

Once the Stolin district resident was handed over to the Belarusian police by the Russians, the court proceeding took place, leading to his conviction and a three-month imprisonment sentence.

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