17 years after its recognition, conscientious objection is always prosecuted




Tomorrow, 16/06/2015, the case of conscientious objector Dimitris K. Sotiropoulos will be heard before the Appeal Military Court of Athens. Sotiropoulos, 48 years old and a founding member of the Greek Association of Conscientious Objectors, has refused to enlist since 1992, declared publicly his opposition to violence and militarism, and asked to perform an equal alternative civilian service. At first instance, and having already been exempted from conscription as a father of 3 children, he was sentenced to a 10-month suspended imprisonment sentence, 23 years after his initial insubordination. Among others, the Vice-President of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) Sam Biesemans will testify in his defense, who came from Brussels for this purpose.

The case of Sotiropoulos, like the numerous cases of objectors who were drawn to the military courts before him (but also like those who follow), is a characteristic example of a residue of dark times in the Greek legal framework. While the issue of conscientious objectors has been solved by both the European Court of Human Rights and by the legislation of almost all European countries, Greece insists on:

  • Criminalising the choice and the invocation of respect, honor and conscience of its citizens.
  • Judging civilians before military courts, as during the times of dictatorship and civil war.
  • Promoting revenge as the primary method of treating citizens who claim their dignity, honor and conscience against the army.
  • Judging and repeatedly convicting conscientious objectors for the same offense, in violation of every concept and substance of law.
  • Systematically devaluing all decisions and recommendations of the European Court of Human Rights, the United Nations, the European Parliament and organizations defending human rights.
  • Establishing alternative civilian service on the sole grounds to punish those who choose it.
  • Forbidding the alternative service where social needs are the most pressing, excluding its application in the prefectures of Attica, Thessaloniki and six large cities.
  • Establishing conscience control committees as a means of deterring young people who choose to fulfill this service.
  • Maintaining a conscription system in complete mismatch with the needs of society, with compulsory enlistment until the age of 45 years.
  • Impoverishing financially young people sending them repeatedly to be tried before military courts for their choice to follow their conscience.
  • Imposing a fine of 6,000 euros after each enlistment call, in order to financially blackmail and humiliate the political and conscientious differentiation.

The case of Sotiropoulos, and all objectors before and after him, demonstrates clearly the mismatch of a regressive political perception, completely at odds with the society. It also demonstrates absolutely the total disregard for institutions and processes, both by the side of the military guild (which is expected), and by the side of the institutional Greek state.

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Related peace activist(s): Dimitris Sotiropulos