Problems of the Polish "Conscientious Objectors" to the year 2009

“What does the freedom of conscience consist of (…) if not on this, so that you in the matters of religion thought what you want, freely proclaimed what you think and did everything that does not entail a human harm?” - Jonasz Szlichtyng (Arian)

The "Conscientious Objector” is called a person whose religious beliefs and the moral principles do not allow to join the army. Can be safely said that the first "Conscientious Objectors”, the pacifists, were the Polish Brethren, Arians. They played a prominent role in the theological disputes over the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the development of education and science and Polish literature. They were convinced among other things, that any external authority cannot persuade or coerce a person to believe in what the mind can not comprehend or does not recognize as a right. Most importantly, the socio-political radicalism characterized them, which expressed itself by the rejection of all forms of violence, the pursuance of repressive government departments and the military duties (they wore the symbolic wooden swords).

The contemporary "Conscientious Objectors” share their views, but unfortunately often also their fate. The Arians inPolandhave met repressions from the state authorities; they were thrown out fromPolandin the 1658.  In the interwar period, as well as in the People's Republic ofPoland, all the men calling for exemption from the military service were forcibly conscripted into the army or put into prison.( The Act from 1967 of the general defence requirement). By the year 2009 (when the obligation of military service was abolished by law) the "Conscientious Objectors” referred to the Polish regulations, which guaranteed to them freedom of action or the possible options to deal with this standoff situation in which they were standing in front of the Military Commission of Additions and they had to know how to defend themselves. Inter alia it was The Act from 11/28/2003 about the substitute service, Coll. U. from 12/29/2003. and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which there is an ascertainment that any country cannot tolerate the use of the judicial system to impose on the citizens to change their opinions.

Theoretically, it seems to be an interesting possibility to perform substitute service, which involves, among others on doing works for the protection of environment, the social assistance, and for the public administration and judicial. However, there seems to be again the gap between theory and practice. When it comes to practice, most of the men who received the call to the military service was left uninformed about the possibility to perform a substitute service. They were not aware that this option even exists.

It might seem that the fault lies in the lack of information only on the conscripts, who can not perform such a small epistemic work. Is known however that the stick has always two ends.

There are the cases when the military institution behaves unprofessionally and does not inform the potential conscript about the possibility of substitute service implementation. Often, such situations ended as the Artur Adamiak’s situation. Sentenced by theMilitary Garrison Court, in 1998, one year imprisonment for refusing military service. The explanatory memorandum states that “the attitude of the accused violates the fundamental interests of defending the homeland. And since the refusal of military service becomes widespread, in order to the public upbringing he must be closed in a prison.” Then also many NGOs inPolandand the overseas, e.g. the Amnesty International, gave him a status of "prisoner of conscience" because of the opinion that Adamiak has been jailed unlawfully. Nobody informed him about the right for substitute service. Artur refused to going to the army, arguing the refusal on grounds of the moral values and beliefs, and the important things in life. This whole argument deemed to be unsatisfactory for the MCA. During the talks, nobody paid attention to Artur, he was granted the category of 'A' (suitability to the service). He was not informed that he has the possibility to appeal against this decision.

Unfortunately not only insufficient information leads to unlawful imprisonment. The case of Marcin Petke was well-known by the polish public opinion. 23-year-old boy decided to exercise his right to the alternative service because of his beliefs which were associated with Catholicism and Buddhism. It turned out that the MCA considered his decision as to be "insufficiently grounded" therefore he had to held his military service. The verdict of theGarrison CourtinGdynia, which for the "evasion of military service" sentenced him on six months imprisonment without possibility of suspension.

The most discriminated group during the MCA assignation to the army were the Catholics. Many of people could not justify their beliefs only because the MCA required an explanation on the level of PhD thesis. Now, after the year2009 inPolandnobody heard about the "Conscientious Objectors”, however, they probably exist in the form of "deserters". Fundamental difference between them lies in the fact that in cases of desertion they are going to the prison from their own choice.

May be considered that the reason of those situations was previously mentioned insufficient information, or mistake, ignorance, or lack of professionalism. Surely also. However, in my opinion, the problem mainly lies in the approach of military institutions to the potential soldiers. I have in mind the preponderance, which they rely on the duty of the hierarchical subordination. By such functioning of the military institutions, the soldiers are required to comply with their commanders, therefore, reflections on their own actions should be left to the leaders . The independent reasoning of a soldier it is not welcome to the military institutions. He destroys such integrity for the group to which they belong, what is more, in consequence it may lead to insubordination of the group, and this would be devastating to the integrity and ability to effective functioning of the army. Thus, the future soldier should not have moral beliefs, or religious obligations which does not allow him to serve properly.



  1. What is the substitute service, ( 08.03.2011 r.)
  2. AnarchistInformationCenter,
  3. (06.03.2011 r.)
  4. Libertarianism,
  5. The Green Brigades, " Bulletin of the Anarchist Black Cross " number 10 (05.03.2011 r.)
  6. The Green Brigades, Journal of the environmentalists (05.03.2011 r.)
  7. Compulsory Military Service, Democracy in the Polish Way (08.03.2011 r.)
  8. Polish Dictionary, word: obdżektor (the objector) (03.03.2011 r.)
  9. The Antiwar Coalition of Poznan (05.03.2011 r.)
  10. RP Deserters, Archives of the Republic (08.03.2011)
  11. The Pacifist Commission of Additions (08.03.2011)
  12. Marek Walancik, „Zmiana społeczna a opinie poborowych o zasadniczej służbie wojskowej” („The social change and the opinions of recruits of the basic military service”). Kraków 2007.
  13. Jeff McMahan, On the Moral Equality of Combatants. [in:] “The Journal of Political Philosophy”: Volume 14, Number 4, 2006, pp. 377–393.
  14. Jeff McMahan, The Ethics of Killing in War. Ethics 114, no. 4 (July 2004): 693-733. Condensed version in “Philosophia” 34 (2006): 23-41.
Magister filozofii, etyk. Specjalizacja: etyka wojny i interwencji wojskowych. Zainteresowania: filozofia społeczna i polityczna, bioetyka, neuroetyka.
Obecnie pracuję dla Blackwell UK Ltd. i odbywam kurs Applied Ethics na Oxford University.
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  • Guest
    consobjector Sunday, 05 June 2011

    asylum rights in poland for conscientious objectors.

    Hi; Its possible asylum to poland because of conscientious objector case? I mean other countries citizen can asylum belgium or sweden for conscription in they country and they are conscientious objector,now poland in EU and and poland law and constution let give right to political asylum for conscientious objector?

  • Begina Cox
    Begina Cox Monday, 25 July 2011


    Hi, thank you for your quastion. I will be happy to answer but I need to find more information about the issue which arise in your quastion.

  • Guest
    consobject Monday, 06 June 2011


    Non EU countries citizen conscientious objectors have right to asylum to poland couse of conscription in them countries in 2011 EU member poland?

  • Guest
    consobject Tuesday, 20 September 2011

    conscientious objection

    Mrs slawinska I sent email what you need information about conscientious objection, have you get that email? Thank you.

  • Begina Cox
    Begina Cox Wednesday, 16 November 2011


    Dear Reader, no I did not. I will be grateful if you will send me this mail again!

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