Cyprus Mail

Man loses fight to serve less time in army on citizenship grounds

The supreme court has rejected the case of a man who wanted to serve six months in the national guard as opposed to what was then 24 months as he argued he was a British citizen through his mother.

He had originally been called up to serve in the army back in 2012 before service was reduced to 14 months in 2016. The defendant argued that he should serve a reduced amount of only six months even though his father was a Greek Cypriot.

In September 2012 the army informed him that the law did not currently recognise his case, since he did not gain Cypriot nationality from his mother, but from his father. His brother had also filed a similar case, which was also rejected.

The contentious issue was not whether he would serve in the army or not, but what the length of time his duty would be.

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. Prior to that, Cypriot citizenship was conferred automatically only though the father and if the mother was Cypriot and the father foreign, their offspring was not obliged to serve.

After the law change, those born before 1999 remained exempt and not automatically considered citizens of Cyprus if born to a foreign father but a Cypriot mother, the court said. Those born up until 1999 can only be obliged to do the army if they are Cypriot citizens or 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.

He argued that since he obtained British citizenship from his mother it should weighed on an equal basis as if he had a British father. The court pointed out that he has Cypriot nationality from his father. The supreme court first rejected the case in question in 2013. It said that an absence of current legislation for his case did not meet the criteria for him to be excused from national service. It also stated that such a gap could not be filled by a court order. He appealed this decision but on Tuesday the supreme court again rejected his case.

Conscription in Cyprus has been a thorny issue for decades, causing bitter disputes and accusations of unfairness.

In Cyprus, prior to 2008, all men belonging to certain religious groups such as Armenians and Maronites – were exempt from national duty.

Some have complained that the current laws are also sexist, as they place supremacy on the nationality of the father. They argue that the mother’s status should have an equal weighting as that of the father.

Most countries with conscription only target men, but Norway, Sweden, North Korea, Israel and Eritrea conscript both men and women.

Others however say that the current conscription service is sexist against men since women do not have to serve and it unfairly discriminates against men based on their gender.

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