desertion

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desertion,

in law, the forsaking of a station involving public or social duties without justification and with the intention of not returning. In military law, it is the abandonment of (or failure to arrive at) a place of duty without leave; in time of war, especially in the face of the enemy, desertion is punishable by death. In maritime law, a seaman who abandons a ship without leave is rendered liable to damages and forfeits the wages he has already earned. In family law, desertion is the willful abandonment by one spouse in a marriage, without the consent of the other. The refusal to renew cohabitation without justification is also considered desertion, and in some states of the United States, mere abstinence from sexual intercourse is considered such. The refusal by a husband to support his wife has been regarded as desertion if he has the means to support her. In most states, desertion continued for a certain period is grounds for divorcedivorce,
partial or total dissolution of a marriage by the judgment of a court. Partial dissolution is a divorce "from bed and board," a decree of judicial separation, leaving the parties officially married while forbidding cohabitation.
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. In the modern, no-fault divorce, desertion is not recognized, although the marital partners may have been living apart prior to the divorce.

Desertion

 

according to Soviet criminal law, one of the most serious military crimes which interferes with the staffing of the armed forces of the USSR. It involves evasion by citizens of the USSR of their performance of constitutional duties to defend and protect the socialist homeland. Abandoning a military unit, or any other duty station where a serviceman is supposed to be, for the purpose of evading military service is considered to be desertion, as is failure, for the same purpose, to report to a unit or duty station when assigned, transferred, or returning from detached service, leave , or a medical institution. The length of time spent away from the military unit or duty station where the serviceman is supposed to serve is not important for the institution of criminal proceedings; in this instance the most important thing is the purpose, to evade military service.

Desertion is a crime in which the guilty person is in the state of committing the crime from the moment of abandoning the duty station and throughout the entire period of time spent illegally away from the military unit. Therefore, the statute of limitations in criminal cases, amnesty, and pardon are not applicable here. Desertion is punishable by a deprivation of freedom for a period of three to seven years, and desertion by officers or persons in military service beyond the regular term punishable by deprivation of freedom for five to seven years. Harsher punishment, all the way to the death penalty, is provided for by law for desertion in wartime (for example, the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, Art. 247).

N. I. ZAGORODNIKOV

In the military criminal law of the other socialist countries desertion is one of the most dangerous types of evasion of military service. The law of most of these countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic [GDR], the Mongolian People’s Republic, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia) defines desertion as abandonment by a serviceman of his military unit (or duty station) or failure to report to the military unit (or duty station) with the intention of evading the obligations of military service completely. In Rumanian law the length of time spent away from the unit is the basis for the concept of desertion. Desertion is considered more serious if it is done during wartime or in a combat situation (Bulgaria, Hungary, the GDR), by an officer (the GDR), by a group of persons (Hungary, the GDR), carrying off a weapon (Hungary, the GDR), using or threatening to use force (the GDR), or for the purpose of fleeing from one’s country or not returning to it (Hungary, the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia).

The punishment for desertion depends on the circumstances of the case. Administration of the death penalty is permissible for desertion committed during wartime or in a combat situation. In a number of instances preparation to desert or an attempt to desert is punishable, as are sheltering deserters and failure to report desertion (for example, in Hungary).

Unlike the criminal law of the USSR and the other socialist countries, the military criminal law of the imperialist states defines desertion more broadly, introducing additional and qualifying features for this crime. The political connotations are obvious in criminal law that defines responsibility for desertion according to the 1969 US Uniform Code of Military Justice (art. 85), the British Army Act of 1955 (sec. 37), or the 1965 Code of Military Justice of France (arts. 378-393), which include responsibility for evasion of the performance of “important work,” “dangerous duties,” and “service abroad,” that is, essentially for evading participation in punitive or other police actions both within the country and beyond its borders. In the Federal Republic of Germany any unauthorized absence from the unit is considered desertion (par. 16 of the Law on Military Crimes of Mar. 30, 1957).

As a rule, in addition to long periods of penal servitude or the death penalty (during wartime), supplementary punitive measures are administered for desertion: fines, forfeiture of pay and allowances (the USA, France, Great Britain), and dishonorable discharge from the service (the USA, Great Britain). The last two types of punishment include deprivation of civil rights, loss of all privileges established for veterans, and so on.

By establishing severe punishments for desertion the imperialist states are trying to slow down the growing number of instances of desertion in their armed forces, a reflection of the servicemen’s protest against the aggressive policies of the state. In the USA, for example, desertion in the army increased sharply (almost doubled) during the aggression in Indochina (in the 1960’s and 1970’s). This included desertion for political reasons.

E. V. PROKOPOVICH and A. A. VIKHROV

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