Military Service Evasion

Resource person: Martin Jones, LLM


Martin Jones is a lecturer in international human rights law at the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York.

Martin has previously taught and served as a visiting researcher at Osgoode Hall Law School (Canada), Queen’s University (Canada), the Centre for Refugee Studies (Canada), the University of East London (UK), Georgetown University (USA), the University of Michigan (USA), the American University in Cairo (Egypt) and, most recently, the University of Melbourne (Australia). Martin has been a member of the executive committee of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration and was chair of its 11th biennial conference in Cairo.

Military service evasion – whether it is labelled “draft dodging”, “conscientious objection”, or a myriad of other terms – is a common issue in refugee status determination. As such, refugee status decision makers and advocates are frequently confronted with the question: Under what circumstances can fear of compulsory military service provide the basis for international protection as a “refugee”? There is no simple or uncontested answer to this question; the jurisprudence is somewhat divided and policy makers such as UNHCR have been largely silent.

What these web pages attempt to do is very basic: provide some background on the phenomenon of compulsory military service in the context of refugee claims and to begin to sketch out two types of military service evasion claim: claims based upon (i) prohibited forms of military service due to the nature of the conscriptor or the conscript, and those based upon (ii) prohibited mistreatment related to the specific tasks entailed by military service.  The traditional and most commonly known example of military service evasion, “conscientious objection”, is located in the first category. The more recent and more controversial example of Iraqi war “resisters” (such as Jeremy Hinzman in Canada) are located in the second category.

These pages are a work in progress and will be altered and updated based upon new case law and further developments.

  1. Military service evasion and forced migration
  2. Can military service evasion provide the basis for protection as a refugee?
  3. The starting point of the analysis of the issue
  4. Military service evasion and the definition of “refugee”
  5. Overview of the analysis of compulsory military service as a basis of claim
  6. The lawfulness of state conscription
  7. Unlawful conscription
  8. Unlawful conscript
  9. Mistreatment ancillary to conscription
  10. Treaties, policy and jurisprudence
  11. Other resources and further reading