Political pressure is being applied within the Council of Europe for its member states to act against brutality inflicted on conscripts. Various armed forces within Europe are concerned. But by far the worst, say the authors of a human rights committee report, is Russia’s military – where about 3,000 men die every year. A mothers’ group says no fewer than a third are direct victims of initiation bullying, and a third commit suicide.
Four disciplinary camps exist in Russia where troops who have committed offences against fellow soldiers are sent. One recent incident caused special horror: the torture of a recruit which entailed the amputation of his legs and genitals; He was left for days before his commanders paid attention to his condition.
The head of the Russian delegation at the Council of Europe, Konstantin Kosachev, said an army based on conscription was out-of-date, inefficient – too expensive. A ministry reform project would see contracted service start after 2008, with the term reduced to one year.
Abuse cases have come to the public’s attention recently elsewhere in Europe as well, in France, Poland and Spain. Last November, British television aired footage with a hidden camera of young Royal Marines subjected to initiation violence.