"Limits of Personal Freedom: Civil Rights of Soldiers Under Attack?" - A Debate by EUROMIL

February 19, 2013

On 19 February 2013 members of the PN secretariat, as well as PN member Dr. Karl von Wogau participated in the lunchtime debate on “Limits of personal freedom: civil rights of soldiers under attack?” organised by EUROMIL, in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNS) and the European Security Roundtable (ESRT). The meeting was opened by Hans H. Stein, Director - International Political Dialogue at FNS, and moderated by Christoph Raab, Chairman of ESRT. Speeches were delivered by Hellmut Königshaus, German Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Emmanuel Jacob, President of EUROMIL, and Major General Georg Nachtsheim, Deputy Commander - Rapid Reaction Corps France.

The discussion focused on constraints on human rights of military personnel in normal working conditions as well as in overseas missions. It was emphasised that although soldiers join the armed forces of their free will and acknowledge some restrictions to their personal rights and freedoms in operation, they should enjoy, under normal working conditions, the same rights as any other citizen.
The right of association was particularly emphasised by Mr. Jacob, who recalled that military personnel from over half of the European countries still do not enjoy the right to organise. In some EU countries, chairmen of military associations are even persecuted for denouncing particular social and economic conditions. He concluded saying that the right of association does not harm the effectiveness of the armed forces.
This was confirmed by Mr. Königshaus who explained that German soldiers have trade union rights, which does in no way compromise obedience and order. He described his role as Parliamentary Commissioner for the armed forces to ensure that the basic rights of soldiers are guaranteed and the army democratically represented, more particularly in international missions.
Supporting the role played by military associations and ombudsmen for the armed forces, Maj Gen Georg Nachtsheim gave more information on the German case.
The debate continued on multinational missions and the complexity of organising the rights of soldiers at supranational level.

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