Sweden

 

  Conscription:

Yes

Reintroduced in 2018 (previously suspended in 2010).

Highly selective conscription: most persons serving the military service are volunteers.

  Conscientious objection:

1920

First recognised by Alternative Service Schemes Act, 21st May.

Service

 

Military:

11

For both men and women.

Civilian:

-

Civil conscription is not activated. Persons that have applied for unarmed status can be called for civil defence training later on, if/once the circumstances for the civil defence changes.

Minimum

 

Conscription:

19

All inhabitants between 16 - 70 years old are obliged to participate in national defence in case of emergency or war.

Voluntary enlistment:

18

 

More 

https://ebco-beoc.org/sweden

According to the reply of the Ministry of Defence of Sweden to the Questionnaire about EBCO’s Annual Report 2020 (e-mail on 09/02/2021):

In 2010 Sweden suspended the conscription system in favour of a recruitment system on voluntary terms. The Swedish Government decided on March 2, 2017, to re-activate conscription from January 1 2018. The conscription system includes both men and women and the obligation to perform conscription into the Armed Forces applies for Swedish citizens from the calendar year he or she turns 19. The duration of the military conscription is typically 11 months of basic military training.

The right to conscientious objection to military service was introduced by law in 1920, in the Alternative Service Schemes Act. At date, according to the 1994 Total Defence Act (SFS 1994:1809), a conscript soldier with serious personal conviction concerning the use of a weapon against another person may be assigned a military service as a conscientious objector after application to Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency. This means that the individual may not be enlisted for training to a post which is connected with use of weapons or against her or his will be enlisted for services in Swedish Armed Forces. At present there are no military services as a conscientious objector and the civil conscription is not activated, meaning that in practical terms the individual will not do any service. As for an officer or a professional soldier they have a contract and therefore has the possibility to discharge or leaving for any reasons.

The Swedish Defence Conscription and Assessment Agency has a duty to inform the conscripts of the right to conscientious objection to military service. Already at the outset of the selection process, information about conscientious objection is given to everyone that are called up for service through the authority website.

According to the information provided by the SVENSKA FREDS to EBCO based on several sources [1] (e-mail on 11/01/2021):

The Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency received 43 applications for weapon free status in 2020. 41 of these applications were approved, 1 was rejected and 1 was written off as the application was withdrawn. Among the 41 applications that were approved, 32 people received weapon free status before starting their military training, and 9 people after starting their military training.

The general law of compulsory military service remains the same. In practice, this means that all Swedish citizens are obliged to hand in information to the Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency by the year they turn 18 and participate in military service if they are called to do so. Total objection to participate within both the military and civilian defence, with or without weapon-free status means to be liable for fines.

Of the 94,175 18-year-olds that received the letter to fill in the information to the Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency, 2 % of the around 4,000 that did not hand in the information received a fine order. About half of those later filled in the information and replied to the Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency. 112 people have gotten their cases sent to the prosecutor's office after not showing up to their military selection tryouts in 2020.

Media has continued to be relatively quiet about conscientious objectors in 2020, but in December the Swedish television, SVT, released a report of young people experiencing harassment and offensive treatments during their military education. Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, SPAS, takes this very seriously and continues to be an actor that supports people that refuse to be part of the military system.

As a result of the spread of Covid-19, the Defence Recruitment Agency had to temporarily shut down all its selection tryouts. In March and April 2020, tryouts for 1,750 individuals were cancelled. When the Defence Recruitment Agency opened for tryouts in April, the tryouts had to be done on a much smaller scale to prevent the risk of contributing to the spread of Covid-19. This resulted in the Defence Recruitment Agency holding fewer tryouts than predicted. Overall it did not impact how many applicants were enrolled for military service.

The last years' security political debate has become increasingly militarized. As a result of this, the military budget continues to rise. Over the coming five years, 2021-2025, the military is expected to receive a total of 27 billion SEK extra. In total, this corresponds to 66 billion SEK in 2021 and 77 billion SEK in 2023 for military defence only. This is historically high support for the Swedish military, the highest since the 1950s. The war organization and staff within the Swedish Defence Force is expected to grow from 60,000 to 85-90,000.

According to the information provided by the SVENSKA FREDS to EBCO (e-mail on 27/12/2019):

Military recruitment in Sweden is governed by law (1994:1809). In Swedish: “Lag om totalförsvarsplikt”.

Sweden has had mandatory military service for men since 1901. Compulsory military service for men was deactivated on the 1 of July 2010 and replaced by a voluntary military training service. The law on conscription was simultaneously made gender neutral. The 1 of July 2017 compulsory military service was reinstated in Sweden for both men and women.

All Swedes between 16 to 70 years of age living in Sweden are obliged to participate in national defence in case of emergency or war. Recruitments and conscriptions are based on both compulsion and choice. The law applies equally to both men and women.

When turning 18 Swedish citizens are obliged to provide their personal details to the Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency, a civil agency under the jurisdiction of the Government, that forms part of the Ministry of Defence for consideration of military conscription and service.

The Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency sends letters to all 18-year-old citizens containing personal login details to a webpage in which the person concerned has two weeks to fill out a document that forms a basis for conscription. The Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency thereafter decides who to call for military conscription. The conscription process entails following - tests:

  • A theoretical test in a computer lab
  • Eye exam and color vision test
  • Hearing/auditory test
  • Test that measures strength in legs, back and shoulders
  • Registration of EKG, pulse, and blood pressure
  • Fitness-level tested by a condition bicycle
  • Regular health check
  • Psychology interview

Once the conscription process is finalised the agency decides who will start the initial military training service and within what field.

Approximately 6,000 people were called for conscription 2018 and 2019, after the initial phase of conscription the amount recruited to compulsory military service were 4,000 people per year. This number is set to increase to 8,000 people per year between 2022-2025.

As obliged to participate in national defence, inhabitants of Sweden have the right to apply for a special status not having to bear arms. In order to do so, the person has to fill in the form at the Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency’s webpage. In practice it means that you may be able to practice civil duty and be war placed within the civil defence if the Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency permit it.

There is currently no training for the civil defence. However, persons that have applied for weapon free status can be called for civil defence training later on, if/once the circumstances for the civil defence changes. Some predictions assess that the civil defence will be reactivated in 2023 and responsibilities for its organisation would fall under the jurisdiction of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).

The Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency received 36 applications for weapon free status in 2018. 34 of these applications were approved and 2 were rejected. Among the 34 that was approved, 14 people received weapon free status after starting their military training, and 20 people before starting their military training.

Total objection to participate within both the military and civilian defence, with or without weapon free status means to be liable for fines. Some people that have repeatedly objected have been sent to prison.

Persons may join the armed forces from the age of 18 but all inhabitants between 16 - 70 years old are obliged to participate in national defence in case of emergency or war.

Military youth activities have existed since the beginning of the 1900s in Sweden. Both military and voluntary organisations arrange activities for youths between the ages 15 - 20 years old during summer and winter holidays in which youths are supposed to learn more about the armed forces.

The armed forces also cooperate with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) to spread information about military recruitment in Sweden and teachers can access teaching material on the armed forces webpage.

Migration cases in Sweden are decided on an independent basis, there are therefore no statistics available on conscientious objectors that have been accepted as refugees. However, according to the risk assessment of the Swedish Migration Agency, refugees from certain countries are more likely to be accepted as refugees. Eritrea in which the national service, which includes conscription, also aims to propagate for a coherent national ideology is one example. The replications for deserting the national service in Eritrea is considered to be of especially harsh nature and may therefore be a reason for granting a person refugee status. Other refuge applications may be accepted if the person comes from a country with an ongoing violent conflict in which conscription could implicate extreme dangers to that person’s wellbeing, for example Syria.

Since refugee cases are made on an individual basis the Swedish Migration Agency are unable to hand out information on pending or recently rejected conscientious objectors.

The government offices of Sweden decided in 2018 to increase the military budget between 2019 - 2021. The military force has also produced several suggestions to increase its capacity. Priorities include strengthening the air force defence and the battle group on Gotland, as well as executing several military training activities. The armed forces have extensively increased its recruitment, especially in terms of marketing. Several large media campaigns promoting the armed forces are consequently visible in subway stations and online.

Media has been relatively quiet about conscientious objectors in 2019. Svenska Freds has published articles related to the right to object and continually informs individuals about their choices. Due to the novelty of the reinstated compulsory military service the information is still sparse.