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Hungary-Conscientious Objection

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According to the National Defense Act, those persons who refused military service during peacetime could receive up to five years' imprisonment. Permission was sometimes given, however, to Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, or Nazarenes to serve as noncombatants in military construction units. Government opposition to Catholic conscientious objectors increased after October 1986, when the country's Catholic bishops declared that Catholics could neither refuse nor condemn obligatory military service, although they did urge the state to allow some sort of alternative service. This proclamation was followed by reports of dozens of conscientious objectors' being arrested and sentenced to thirty to thirty-six months' imprisonment by the Budapest Military Tribunal. These so-called "expedited" proceedings were characterized by trials lasting only ten to fifteen minutes. One man so imprisoned, Karoly Kiszely, wrote a letter to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe enumerating the ways in which conscientious objectors were harassed: they were physically abused, and their punishments were imposed without court hearings, without regard for judicial processes, and without legal counsel. Those convicted were allowed contact with only two family members, and they were permitted to send or receive only one "heavily censored" letter per month and to receive only one authorized visit by a relative each month. Furthermore, they were crowded together in prison with common criminals.

The government showed signs of softening its position in late 1987, when it reduced the term of military service for future clerics from eighteen to twelve months. And in early 1989, an amendment to the National Defense Act permitting conscientious objection was introduced into the National Assembly. Conscientious objection was to be allowed beginning in the second half of 1989. On March 1, 1989, the government announced that seventy conscientious objectors serving time in prison had been released and that their criminal record would be dropped, pending approval of a new National Defense Act. Noncombatant service was twenty-four months in the army and another twelve months of nonarmed reserve service. Civilian service was initially proposed for thirty-six months at locations to be determined by the government, with labor paid for in wages. In June 1989, the National Assembly voted to lower the duration of civilian service to twenty-eight months and resolved that the noncombatant service and nonarmed reserve service together not exceed twenty-eight months.

Data as of September 1989

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