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Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on human rights of members of the armed forces
February 2010

The Council of Europe Recommendation on Human Rights of Members of the Armed Forces lists rights and freedoms that should be respected and implemented in the Armed Forces, including that, members of the armed forces have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; access to relevant information; the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others; and, enjoy the right to vote and to stand for election.

The Recommendation (see here for the full text)

The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its member states, inter alia, by promoting the adoption of common rules;

Bearing in mind notably the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ETS No. 5), in the light of the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the European Social Charter (ETS No. 35) as well as the Revised European Social Charter (ETS No. 163), taking into account the relevant case law of the European Committee on Social Rights, and the standards of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

Taking into consideration the relevant United Nations instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the observations and decisions of the monitoring bodies established under the aforementioned instruments;

Taking into account the Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation No. R (87) 8 regarding conscientious objection to compulsory military service, as well as the Parliamentary Assembly’s Recommendations 1742 (2006) on “Human rights of members of the armed forces”, 1714 (2005) on the “Abolition of restrictions on the right to vote”, 1572 (2002) on the “Right to association for members of the professional staff of the armed forces”, 1518 (2001) on the “Exercise of the right of conscientious objection to military service in Council of Europe member states” and 1380 (1998) on “Human rights of conscripts”;

Having regard to the “Handbook on human rights and fundamental freedoms of armed forces personnel”, published by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) and the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) in 2008,

Recommends that the governments of the member states:

1. ensure that the principles set out in the appendix to this recommendation are complied with in national legislation and practice relating to members of the armed forces;

2. ensure, by appropriate means and action, including, where appropriate, translation, a wide dissemination of this recommendation among competent civil and military authorities and members of the armed forces, with a view to raising awareness of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of members of the armed forces, and to providing training aimed at increasing their knowledge of human rights;

3. examine within the Committee of Ministers the implementation of this recommendation two years after its adoption.

Appendix to Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)4

1. This recommendation concerns the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by members of the armed forces in the context of their work and service life.

General principles

2. Whilst taking into account the special characteristics of military life, members of the armed forces, whatever their status, shall enjoy the rights guaranteed in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereafter, “the Convention”) and the European Social Charter and the European Social Charter (revised) (hereafter, “the Charter”), as well as other relevant human rights instruments, to the extent that states are bound by them.

3. According to Article 15 of the Convention and Article 30 of the European Social Charter, in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation, states may derogate from certain of their obligations under the Convention and the Charter to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation and provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law.

4. Derogations under Article 15 of the Convention shall not be permitted in relation to the following rights: the right to life, except in respect of deaths resulting from lawful acts of war, the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the prohibition of slavery and servitude, the principle that no punishment can be inflicted without a law and the right not to be tried or punished twice.

5. The following rights and freedoms should be respected and implemented in accordance with the accompanying principles:

A. Members of the armed forces have the right to life.

B. No member of the armed forces shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

C. Members of the armed forces shall not be used for forced or compulsory labour.

D. Military discipline should be characterised by fairness and procedural guarantees should be secured.

E. Members of the armed forces enjoy the right to liberty and security.

F. Members of the armed forces enjoy the right to a fair trial.

G. Members of the armed forces have the right to respect for their private and family life, their home and correspondence. Any interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right shall comply with the requirements of Article 8, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

H. Members of the armed forces have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Any limitations on this right shall comply with the requirements of Article 9, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

I. Members of the armed forces have the right to freedom of expression. Any restrictions on the exercise of this freedom shall comply with the requirements of Article 10, paragraph 2, of the European Convention on Human Rights.

J. Members of the armed forces have the right to have access to relevant information.

K. Members of the armed forces have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others. Any restrictions placed on the exercise of this right shall comply with the requirements of Article 11, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

L. Members of the armed forces enjoy the right to vote and to stand for election.

M. Members of the armed forces have the right to marry.

N. All members of the armed forces enjoy the right to protection of their property.

O. Members of the armed forces should be provided with accommodation of an adequate standard.

P. Members of the armed forces should have the right to receive fair remuneration and a retirement pension.

Q. Members of the armed forces should have the right to dignity, health protection and security at work.

R. Members of the armed forces should have the right to decent and sufficient nutrition.

S. Members of the armed forces enjoy rights and freedoms without any discrimination.

T. Special attention should be given to the protection of the rights and freedoms of persons under the age of 18 enlisted in the armed forces.

U. Members of the armed forces should receive training on human rights and international humanitarian law.

V. Members of the armed forces should have the possibility of lodging a complaint with an independent body in respect of their human rights.