Swiss Army: The European Court of Human Rights sees unequal treatment between objectors and those who are unfit.
The Swiss R., who lived in Bern at the time, was declared unfit for military service in 2004, for health reasons. On the other hand, he is able to serve in civil defense. He himself took the view that he could neither do one nor the other service.
Accordingly, he was obliged to pay the conscription fee. He fought against this legally, but was defeated before Swiss authorities. Then he came to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the ECHR. There he sued for discrimination on health grounds.
He also stated that he was at a disadvantage compared to those Swiss who refused to do military service for reasons of conscience and could do alternative civilian service. You are accordingly exempt from the conscription fee. The supreme human rights court in Strasbourg now gives the plaintiff right.
Federal Council had to change the legal system
It is the second time that it has ruled in favor of Switzerland in the case of a lawsuit against the compulsory military service levy.
The previous case was eleven years ago. At that time, the Federal Council had to change the legal system due to the Strasbourg court decision: A new option was created for citizens willing to serve but not fully fit for military service to be able to perform military service with special, reduced requirements and thus not be subject to military service.
From the point of view of the ECHR, this new solution could not yet be taken into account in today’s judgment. It only came into force years after R., who is at issue in the current case, had to pay the tax. However, the judges in Strasbourg decided against Switzerland not only for this formal reason.
Not fairly regulated?
From their point of view, it is still not clear and for reasons of human rights not fairly regulated who ultimately has to pay the replacement tax and who does not. Basically, the ECHR sees a problem in the unequal treatment of conscientious objectors for reasons of conscience and those not fit for service for health reasons.
Some escape the military service substitute levy if they do community service, others only in certain cases, namely when the physical limitations are severe. That is discriminatory and violates the European Convention on Human Rights.
The recent ruling should now force Switzerland to go over the books again when it comes to military service substitute tax.