for those already in the armed forces

"Conscientious objection to military service is a subtle concept. Broadly speaking, it arises when a serving or prospective member of the armed forces finds that their work cannot / could not be done in good conscience. When the claim of conscience is sufficiently powerful for the person to seek to remove themselves from their work, then a conscientious objection can be said to exist. This could arise in relation either to specific orders or military operations, or to military service in all its aspects."

Informed Choice: Armed Forces Recruitment Practice in the UK, 2007

Forward Assist is a Veterans Support Charity helps those leaving the forces to re-invent themselves! Soldier to Citizen! It provides ‘needs led’ practical support,vocational skills training and social activities for veterans of all ages. The website also has interesting articles from a veteran's perspective.

March 2013

The Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has published a guide to applicable international standards and jurisprudence relating to conscientious objection to military service.

It is designed as a guide for 'State officials who are responsible for implementing laws, administrative decrees or regulations relating to conscientious objection to military service, as well as Members of Parliament and Government officials who may be involved in drafting laws or administrative decrees or regulations on this subject.'

Additionally, the publication (below) 'is intended to guide individuals who may be called to perform military service and are unsure of what their rights are in this regard, and how and when they can be exercised.'


Notes compiled by the Peace Pledge Union on the procedure for reservists called up for military action and those in the reservists and regular armed forces who have a conscientious objection.

July 2011

European Court of Human Rights catching up with UN Human Rights Committee

On 7 July 2011, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights finally recognised the right to conscientious objection as a right protected under article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In its judgement in the case of Bayatyan v. Armenia, the court has ruled that states have a duty to respect individuals’ right to conscientious objection to military service as part of their obligation to respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion set out in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is the first time that the right of conscientious objection to military service has been explicitly recognised under the European Convention on Human Rights.

June 2011

New legislation (from 22 July 2011) which grants under 18s the right to leave after a 'cooling off' period. Prior to this, discharge of 'unhappy minors' was at the discretion of the commanding officer.

This right is additional to an individual's Discharge As Of Right (DAOR) between the 2nd and 6th month of starting service.

Under 18s in all branches of the forces may now give 3 months' notice to leave (i.e. leave the regular service and join the Reserves) if they give notice in writing to their commanding officer any time before their 18th birthday. By mutual consent the 3 months' notice may be reduced. 

The recruit can change their mind about leaving if they do so within the notice period and they can still give notice later on.

Additionally, the legislation also allows adults the possibility of having their 12 month notice period reduced by up to 6 months as long as it is done within one month of notice being given. This is at the discretion of the commanding officer.

October 2008

Tobias Pflüger, MEP

This publication gives a detailed overview of the right to conscientious objection in the countries of the European Union (including candidate countries), and as far as possible of practices regarding this right. It has become obvious that the situation regarding the right to conscientious objection within the European Union is not good. Most countries of the EU are far from conforming with the existing international standards: of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, or the European Parliament.

It looks at the situation country by county. For the UK it concludes that: 

  • The regulations governing the right to conscientious objection are not in the public domain, and information is difficult to obtain by members of the public, and also by members of the Armed Forces.
  • Decision making on an application for conscientious objection in the first instance is by the respective branch of the Armed Forces itself, and not by an independent body. Only the appeal body – the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors – is an independent body.

Details of how to register a conscientious obhection in the army, navy and RAF. This information was obtained using the Freddom of Information Act and was previously not in the public domain.

AT EASE is an advice service to those in the armed forces and family members which has been running since the 1980s. It is staffed by volunteers. There is a telephone helpline or you can send an email. There is information on various terms of service issues and conscientious objection on the website.



Veterans for Peace UK: a new organisation for veterans of the armed forces committed to opposing war through nonviolent means. Veterans for Peace UK are available to speak at schools and events.