Cyprus Mail

MPs looking at ways to cut draft dodging

By Poly Pantelides

DEPUTIES are looking at law amendments to discourage draft dodging by thwarting a civil service career for those who have avoided conscription, to be discussed in the House Defence Committee.

Lawmakers are looking to add conditions on hiring civil servants, including educators, who have dodged conscription on medical grounds.

The thought is to oblige potential applicants who have avoided conscription to be subjected to a medical examination by ad hoc medical councils that will review the grounds for dismissal from doing or completing the National Guard service.

If those grounds are judged to be non-valid, e.g. a medical condition was given as an excuse but a doctor basically calls it a lie, then applicants may be looking at conscription after all. They might also look at a failed application to join the civil service.

In effect, lawmakers are discussing ways to link up entering the civil service or taking up a teaching appointment with having to do the army to make avoiding conscription less attractive.

This is in line with the defence ministry’s moves to call in those who have already avoided conscription to be re-evaluated to see if they are now fit to join the army, mandatory for male Cypriots who usually have to serve for two years.

The members of the defence committee have been bouncing off ideas for a while, and in statements to the press express a fervent commitment to get all those who can serve in the army.

The defence ministry itself tends to go for the most encompassing understanding of the law, and was recently told in the Supreme Court it was wrong to try to conscript a young boy and foreign national, on the argument that he was eligible for Cypriot citizenship even if he did not have one.

The vast majority of the exemptions to serving in the national guard are on psychological grounds, which over the past decade has been used by potential new recruits to avoid the draft. It used to be the case that dodging the army prevented people from joining the civil service, and if the defence committee’s proposals stand up to legal scrutiny this may be the case again. Under the proposals parliament is currently discussing, various medical councils will comprise of experts focusing on specific claims. Those with a faulty heart or a bad leg will be safe because their problem will be obvious. But it is those claiming psychological problems who are the real targets, the head of the defence committee Giorgos Varnava said.

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