Cyprus Mail

Supreme Court upholds conscript’s exemption

THE SUPREME Court has ruled that the defence ministry was wrong to try and recruit a 17-year-old who did not have Cypriot citizenship.

The Court was reviewing the case of Ioannis Kalligerou, who was born of a Cypriot mother and a foreign father but never applied for Cypriot citizenship.

The Kalligerou family objected last year to a defence ministry decision to recruit their son, then aged 17. The National Guard interpreted the law as allowing them conscript Ioannis because he was eligible for Cypriot citizenship even if he did not have one.

The family took the case to court and won last year, but the defence ministry appealed. Last week, the Supreme Court said the original decision was correct, bringing the case to a close. The court was right in its judgement that the defence ministry’s decision to recruit Ioannis was “void” and “illegal,” the Supreme Court said. Ioannis was not a Cypriot citizen and therefore was not obliged to do the army, even if it was within his rights to apply for citizenship, the court said.

The law on the National Guard was changed in 1999 so that if either parent was Cypriot, then their son would be obliged to serve in the National Guard.  Prior to that, Cypriot citizenship was conferred automatically only though the father.

Therefore after the change, those born before 1999 – when the law changed to be non-discriminatory – were to be exempt and not automatically considered citizens of Cyprus if born to a foreign father but a Cypriot mother, the court said.

In short, those born up until 1999 can only be obliged to do the army if they are Cypriot citizens or else if their father is Cypriot. And even if they did get citizenship because their mother was Cypriot, they would only be obliged to serve for six months, the court said.

So the Supreme Court confirmed that Ioannis – born of a Greek father and a Cypriot mother in 1994 – was in the clear.

Ioannis’ mother and his lawyer, Marika Kalligerou, said the decision paved the way for others in a similar position to lodge their own court applications.

Those who have been called to serve this summer need to lodge an application to court immediately in order to secure an interim order to suspend the defence ministry’s executive administrative decision calling them for recruitment, she said.

She added she already had other clients with similar cases.

The case may have implications for any youths who do not have citizenship, whether they were born before or after 1999. But Kalligerou said the court did not actually rule on that specific point.

“With our decision the court has laid out some general guidelines that you can’t recruit someone who does not have citizenship but that was not the matter in question in our case,” she added. She said her own case, which the court examined, is limited to sons – who are not Cypriot citizens – born of Cypriot mothers and foreigner fathers before 1999, and the National Guard will have to comply with those specific guidelines.

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