Ukraine increases penalties for disobedience and desertion in the army

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday promulgated a law increasing the penalties incurred by the military for disobedience and desertion. Despite the russian invasionthis text is criticized by human rights defenders.

According to the text published on the site of the Ukrainian Parliament which had adopted it in December, the facts concerned include the refusal to obey an order, threats against a commander, desertion and flight from the battlefield or the consumption of alcohol.

In particular, it prohibits the courts from reducing sentences or granting conditional sentences to servicemen found guilty. This provision has drawn strong criticism even though the severity of the penalties has not changed significantly under the new law. Ukrainian soldiers face up to 12 years in prison for desertion, up to 10 years for disobedience or refusal to fight and up to 7 years for threatening a superior.

“In conditions of war, quick and effective decisions are necessary”

During its discussion in Parliament, the text was criticized by human rights defenders and several organizations called on the president not to sign it. A petition opposing the law registered on the presidency’s website gathered nearly 35,000 signatures in December. “Instead of thanking the military, who repelled a large-scale Russian invasion for almost a year and implemented successful operations to liberate the territory, we get prison terms for the slightest disagreement or remark to commanders,” accuses this petition.

The bill, on the other hand, was supported by Ukrainian Chief of Staff Valery Zalouzhny. According to him, the commanders on the ground have “demanded a systematic solution to this set of problems” and “under conditions of war, quick and effective decisions are necessary”. “The army is disciplined. And if loopholes in the legislation do not guarantee its observance (…) this leads to increased losses. »

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