Half of draftees have mental problems

  • 2001-05-03
  • BNS
RIGA - About half of potential draftees in Latvia who are recognized as unfit for military service have either psychological or psychiatric problems, the Parliament's requirements committee reported.

Military conscription center head Juris Macs reported to the Parliament's requirements committee about the situation in conscription for military service on April 25.

Macs said that the most frequent grounds for recognizing a person as unfit for military service are psychological disparity for service in the army.

"It does not mean the people have a serious mental ailment or are dangerous to the public. They simply do not qualify for requirements which are needed to serve in the army," said Macs.

He said the low level of education among draftees is directly related to psychological disparity. Less than 40 percent of potential draftees have finished secondary education while a huge portion have not finished basic education.

Committee member Peteris Tabuns said that many draftees are "obscurants" because of their education, or lack of it. MP Aivars Tiesnesis meanwhile described Latvia's present army as a "bunch of rams" and suggests forming a professional army in the future.

The language problem is also serious because a certain degree of language proficiency is required from people of other nationalities only in secondary schools. Some 20 percent to 25 percent of potential draftees have to take language courses before they qualify to serve in the army.

Macs also told reporters that the deficiencies in the law allow numerous intelligent young people to avoid military service. For example, a youth can avoid enrollment in the army if he is a student, has secured employment abroad or buys a doctor's report on being unfit for military service.

He said it is complicated and actually impossible to call to responsibility persons dodging service. The police lack resources, as well as interest, to look for persons avoiding service and if a case reaches the court it only warrants a small fine or suspended punishment, said Macs.

Macs said if a person receives a suspended punishment for avoiding military service, then, under the effective law, that person cannot be enrolled in the army because the law stipulates persons convicted of a crime cannot be enrolled in military service.

Macs told the committee MPs that a draft law on alternative military service has been developed which would require persons who cannot serve with the army due to their religious or other reasons undergo military training.

Under amendments to the law on mandatory military service, youths that are subject to military service in the future will be registered at the age of 16 and not 18, as is the case currently.