2.2.1. Draft evaders

 
Common analysis
Last updated: September 2020

This profile refers to men who have refused or evaded conscription, including those who have not yet been confronted with conscription. See also the general COI summary under Persons who evaded or deserted military service.

COI summary

It is reported that conscription intake remains relatively the same, even though the situation in Syria has stabilised to a certain degree. Mass conscription drives and arrests in Damascus, in core areas of the Syrian Coast and in Homs and Hama governorates are still going on. Conscription activity in reconciled areas, such as northern Homs governorate or southern Syria also took place, primarily because former opposition populations in these areas have largely been recruited into other pro-GoS units such as the Fifth Corps or the wide array of pro-GoS paramilitary groups rather than conscripted into the SAA.  [Targeting, 2.1]

GoS is reported to view as political dissent the activities of wide categories of individuals, including draft evaders. Draft evaders were also among the categories included in the so called ‘wanted lists’  [Targeting, 1., 1.3.6]

According to the Syrian Military Penal Code (Articles 98, 99), draft evaders are punished with one to six months imprisonment in peacetime, after which they have to complete their military service in full. In wartime, draft evasion is a criminal offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and individuals have to complete their military service. In practice, draft evaders are usually sent directly to the military. [Targeting, 2.3.1]

Amnesty laws have been issued on several occasions since the Syria’s crisis began in March 2011 to grant draft evaders or deserters amnesty from prosecution. However, military service would still have to be completed. Legislative Decree No 18 issued in October 2018, granted a general amnesty to certain individuals in Syria or abroad, accused of deserting or avoiding military service. The amnesty had to be taken up within four months for those residing within the country, or six months for those living abroad. Those who fought on the side of the armed opposition or dissented against GoS were excluded from the amnesty. On 28 October 2018, the Ministry of Defence issued a circular that provided for the implementation of the amnesty and forbade the arrest of reservists who had evaded military service, stating that the names of reservists who were wanted for active service would be removed from the list. Those reservists could still be called up again in the event of war or a state of emergency. [Targeting, 2.4]

In November 2018, sources assessed that very few individuals would be interested in using the amnesty law, the main reasons being that it did not pardon them for fulfilling the military service. Other sources also mentioned that GoS has not respected prior amnesties and reconciliation agreements, fuelling distrust among Syrians. [Targeting, 2.4]

Despite the October 2018 amnesty law, the GoS issued new lists of persons called for emergency military service, which contained 400 000 names, including a large number of youths whose names had just been removed from the list by virtue of the amnesty measure. [Targeting, 2.4]

The grace period of four to six months granted by the amnesty expired on 9 April 2019. Information on whether the amnesty was renewed could not be found. [Targeting, 2.4]

Risk analysis[20]

In accordance with Article 9(2)(e) QD, ‘acts of persecution [as qualified in paragraph 1] can, inter alia, take the form of: prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service in a conflict, where performing military service would include crimes or acts falling within the scope of the grounds for exclusion as set out in Article 12(2)’. In the case of the ongoing armed conflict in Syria, where various excludable acts have reportedly been committed by the Syrian Armed Forces, this is found to apply [see the chapter Exclusion] and well-founded fear of persecution would in general be substantiated. In exceptional cases, where it is clearly established that the role in which the applicant would be deployed would exclude participating in excludable acts, additional factors may be required to substantiate a well-founded fear of persecution.

Taking into account the absence of a procedure for obtaining, or recognition of, the status of conscientious objector and the absence of alternative service in Syria, in the case of individuals considered to be conscientious objectors, well-founded fear of persecution would also in general be substantiated. The individual assessment whether someone is a conscientious objector should look into whether the opposition to military service is motivated by a serious and insurmountable conflict between the obligation to serve in the army and a person’s conscience or his deeply and genuinely held religious or other beliefs, constitutes a conviction or belief of sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

Other actions to which draft evaders could be exposed may also be of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. arbitrary arrest along with other forms of mistreatment such as physical violence, the risks associated with the treatment in detention facilities, including torture).

In the case of draft evaders, a well-founded fear of persecution would in general be substantiated. While certain exemptions from military service are envisaged in law, their application in practice lacks predictability.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile may be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion.


 

[20] See also CJEU, Andre Lawrence Shepherd v Bundesrepublik Deutschland, C472/13, judgment of 26 February 2015 (Shepherd). It can also be noted that a relevant case is currently pending at the CJEU, EZ v Federal Republic of Germany, represented by the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, C238/19 (Request for a preliminary ruling from the Verwaltungsgericht Hannover (Administrative Court, Hanover, Germany). [back to text]
Download PDF