Members of the Association are individuals who left FR of Yugoslavia prior
to, or during the recent Kosovo crisis and NATO operations, in order to
avoid being drafted into armed forces or those who deserted Yugoslav Army
pursuant to their genuine conscious convictions and beliefs.

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

13 January 2001
EUR 70/001/2001

Amnesty International today welcomed the provisions of the Amnesty bill - approved yesterday by the parliament of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - which include an amnesty for conscientious objectors to military service in the Yugoslav Army.

The main provisions of the law apply to an estimated 24,000 men, including conscientious objectors and deserters who refused to take part in the conflicts in former Yugoslavia. The bill covers those who refused to take up arms, those who avoided military service or registration for service and those who deserted from the Yugoslav Army.

"Over the last decade we have supported the rights of the many young men who chose to conscientiously object to military service," said an Amnesty International spokesperson. "We know of many conscientious objectors who were forced to flee abroad and who will now be able to return to their country without fear of persecution."

However, the organization remains concerned the Yugoslav government has not announced that it will provide for a genuine civilian alternative to military service which meets international standards, and urges the government to make this issue a priority. The organization also remains concerned as to whether reservists and others given amnesty under this act will be called up for military service at a future date.

The bill also provides an amnesty to an estimated 1,000 prisoners convicted for "criminal acts" against the Yugoslav military - including those convicted of the offence of "association for hostile activity" under which some of the 800 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo currently held in Serbian prisons have been sentenced. Some of these prisoners may thus be freed.

Contrary to recent reports in the international media, the scope of the bill does not include the majority of the ethnic Albanian prisoners who have been sentenced to terms of between seven and 12 years' imprisonment on charges of "terrorism". Amnesty International is concerned that the majority of these prisoners have been convicted and sentenced in unfair trials characterized by violations of national and international standards at every stage from pre-trial custody to the trials themselves. The organization has called for a speedy reconsideration of the evidence to establish whether there is case to answer. If not, the prisoners should be immediately released.

Amnesty International therefore welcomes yesterday's statement by Federal Justice Minister Momcilo Grubac acknowledging irregularities in proceedings against the ethnic Albanians - inter alia in the definitions of terrorism used. Amnesty International expects that the Supreme Court will deal swiftly with all appeals made by and on behalf of these ethnic Albanian prisoners


Conscientious Objectors to Military Service

No detailed information about conscientious objectors, draft evaders and deserters was ever released by the Yugoslav authorities. Estimates of the numbers involved vary widely. Many individuals against whom proceedings were brought were sentenced in absentia, having gone into hiding in the FRY or abroad. From 1994 onwards the right of conscientious objection to military service in Yugoslavia was confined to new conscripts who applied for the status within 15 days of receiving a summons for mobilization; this right was not available to reservists, men already serving as conscripts or professional military. The majority of imprisoned conscientious objectors, who were identified by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience, were released from prison in September 2000.

Ethnic Albanian prisoners from Kosovo

Over 2,000 ethnic Albanians were arrested in Kosovo during the NATO "Operation Allied Force", and subsequently transferred to prisons in Serbia following the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army and Serb military and paramilitary forces from Kosovo. An estimated 800 prisoners remain, others having been released following acquittal, or having served relatively short sentences. Others were freed before trial following credible allegations that payments were made by prisoners' families via lawyers to court officials.

The paediatrician and humanitarian Dr Flora Brovina, identified by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience was released on 1 November 2000, having served 18 months of a twelve year sentence, following an instruction to the court from newly elected President of Yugoslavia, Vojislav Kostunica.

Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 17:37:39 +0100
From: Farkas Henrik <[email protected]>
Subject: Action

Call for Action

The Amnesty International issued a lengthy, detailed report (October 1999, AI Index: EUR 70/111/99) which dealt with the situation of Yugoslavian conscientious objectors and deserters in connection to the Kosovo crisis. The report is supported by citations from several documents and interviews with witnesses. Some parts of the report criticizes Hungary because of the treatment of the refugees, slow processing of their asylum claims, and incorrect refusal arguments.

During the Kosovo crisis, the NATO and its leading politicians repeatedly revealed the criminal actions committed by the Yugoslavian army by leaflets and radio broadcasts, threatening the soldiers with devastating attacks and international war crimes court trials, unless they escape. These calls urged the soldiers to disobey the orders of the Yugoslav government and to offer resistance.

Due to this, we think that it is a moral obligation for the NATO countries to guarantee an adequate protection for all Yugoslavians who - following their conscience - escaped abroad, in order to avoid participation in the criminal actions. Now, from these objectors and deserters (ethnic Hungarians from Vojvodina, but ethnic Serbs as well) political asylum is being refused. They are not allowed to take jobs, and are forced to live in miserable conditions in refugee camps (Debrecen, Békéscsaba). Their political asylum applications are disregarded for months, and they fear of deportation back into Yugoslavia. This procedure is a shame for Hungary!

We call the Hungarian government and the Hungarian immigration authorities to assure safety and protection for these objectors and deserters (many of whom are ethnic Hungarians from Vojvodina), if only because of the principles of correctness and humanism. It is the duty of the Hungarian authorities to take into account all the antecedents, the fact that these soldiers had made a service to all peace-loving people, and, in the near future, they cannot return in their homeland, because they can face long-term imprisonment for their actions inspired by their beliefs, or their political or moral convictions.
1999. December

Further supports are welcome

Farkas Henrik [email protected]
Tófalvi Péter [email protected]

List of people who joined the action: (1st Dec, 1999)

Ádám András
Balogh Sándor /USA/
Bata Gábor
Bródy János
Bulányi György
Csapody Tamás
Deli Gyula
Deliné Szita Anna
Erdély Dániel
Fábri Péter
Farkas Henrik
Farkas István
Hatvany Béla Csaba /USA/
Horváth Zsolt
Jancsó Miklós
Juhász Géza
Johnson Patricia /Csehország/
Keeler Wally /Kanada/
Klasse, Per Johan /Németország//
Lanaikey Avinty /Csehország/
Lengyel Alfonz /USA/
Merza József
Rátkai János
Simonyi Gyula
Somlyó Zsuzsa
Steiner Miklós
Szalai István
Szebeni Olivér
Tihanyi Gyula
Tófalvi Péter
Tóth Kálmán /USA/
Varga Ferenc /Ausztrália/
Vicsek Lilla
Vida István