Cyprus Mail

Longer alternative service for ‘mentally unfit’ conscripts

By Staff Reporter

CONSCRIPTS deemed to be mentally unfit will no longer be able to secure a full discharge but will rather be required to serve in the army for a period one-third longer than the normal stint, under new legislation being hammered out by the defence ministry aiming to crack down on wannabe draft dodgers.

Defence minister Christoforos Fokaides told daily Politis that draftees diagnosed with psychological problems would serve out an alternative service, not at military installations but at defence-related services.

Conscripts classified as mentally unfit would be allowed to return home after their work-day is done and spend the night there.

Currently, full military service is 24 months. The alternative service under the new law would add another one-third (eight months) to that.

Right now the two options are full military service, lasting 24 months, and a ‘special service’ for draftees who are deemed to be physically or mentally unfit. The ‘special service’ is longer, 32 months. However, many conscripts continue to slip through the cracks, obtaining a full waiver on the grounds of psychological problems.

The new law, expected to be submitted by the ministry over the next few weeks, would abolish the full waiver.

Also, it will be prohibited for anyone – whether doing a normal or alternative stint – to travel abroad or to enrol in a studies programme.

Currently, conscripts are able to secure a waiver by producing a medical certificate from a single doctor. But the new law will make it harder, requiring a draftee citing psychological problems to also be evaluated by a panel of five National Guard psychiatrists.

Aware that the long duration of the service is why many conscripts take to cheating, the defence ministry is also mulling a reduction in the military stint.

The reduction was among the policies promulgated in Nicos Anastasiades’ election campaign plank in 2013.

Although the defence ministry refuses to release official figures, reports back in 2010 suggested that around 20 per cent of conscripts were dodging military service, mainly on psychological grounds.

According to DISY MP Andreas Michaelides, speaking in September 2013, over the previous five years more than 6,000 conscripts got a deferment, of which around 5,000 subsequently received a full waiver. The numbers suggested that each year around 1,000 persons managed to avoid enlistment.

It’s understood that drop-out rates have since declined.

Military service in Cyprus is mandatory, with boys drafted straight out of high school.

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