TURKEY: Conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke at danger of reimprisonment
Turkish conscientious objector Osman Murat
Ülke, who spent 2 1/2 years in prison from October 1996 until March
1999, and who won his case at the European Court of Human Rights in
2006, received a new order from the military prosecutors office of
Eskisehir informing him that he is expected to present himself within
10 days of issue of that notice to the prosecutor in order to serve a
sentence of 17 months and 15 days in respect of earlier convictions for
refusing to undertake military service. Failure to do so would result
in a warrant being issued for his arrest. The document in question had
been issued on 14 June 2007, so that it is highly likely that presently
there is an arrest warrant for Osman Murat Ülke, putting him at high
risk of arrest and reimprisonment.
Osman Murat Ülke was the first Turkish conscientious objector to be
imprisoned for refusing to perform military service. On 1 September
1995, he burned his military call-up papers during a press conference
in the offices of the Izmir War Resisters Association (ISKD). During
this conference, he made the following statement:
Good day. This press conference has not been organised by ISKD.
I am personally responsible for this meeting.
As you know, the trial in the Ankara General Staff Military Court in
which we were accused of "alienating people from military service" came
to its conclusion on 29 August 29.
The Chairperson of the closed-down Istanbul SKD, Arif Hikmet Iyidogan,
was sentenced to six months in prison, university student Gokhan
Demirkiran to four months, Mehmet Sefa Fersal to two months. I have
been acquitted. But, during the trial, and although it was not related
to the matter of the trial, the judge asked if we had gone to military
service. As I admitted I had not, I was taken to Cankaya Recruiting
The Army, unable to overpower us through jurisprudence, now deems
necessary to distance the war resisters from public opinion with such
Before all I am not a draft evader, but a conscientious objector.
I neither think to escape nor to go to conscription. I have no reason
to escape conscription, because I am in favour of people using their
right not to be conscripted without having to hide.
According to the papers given by the Recruiting Office I am recognised
as a conscript and it claimed that I should go to the 9th Constable
Soldier drilling Regiment in Bilecik, on 31 August.
As you see, I have not gone, I am here. Even though I cannot be called
a draft evader, I consider it meaningless to go of my own accord. On
the contrary, here and now, I will burn this Military Pass against
which my own will rebels. In addition, I will burn the notification
paper and give back the rest of the documents to the state by mail.
Perhaps they will need them. Also I will send back the 101.000 TL that
was given to me by the Cankaya Recruiting Office for transportation and
I am not a soldier and I will never be. Of course I am aware that I
will be taken by force. But until I am taken, there will be no change
in my daily routine. they can find me here in order to take me by
force. But I want to stress that I will resist in the barracks until
the end and never perform military service.
Osman Murat Ülke
September 1, 1995
Following this statement, and his failure to present himself for
military service, Osman Murat Ülke was arrested more than one year
later, on 7 October 1996. What followed was an seemingly never ending
circle of arrest and sentencing. The European Court of Human Rights
described this in his admissibility decision as follows:
On 8 October 1996, the applicant was arrested. In the charge of
18 October 1996, the military prosecutor attached to the general
etats-majors tribunal of Ankara charged him with incitement to dissuade
conscripts from doing their military service, on the ground of Article
155 of the criminal code and of Article 58 of the military criminal
code. In its decision of 28 January 1997, the general etats-majors
tribunal of Ankara ("the etats-majors tribunal") sentenced him to 6
months in prison and to a fine based on the charge of 18 October 1996.
The etats-majors tribunal also noted the deserter status of the
applicant and consequently decided to refer a ruling to the military
prosecutor attached to the etats-majors tribunal in order to enlist the
applicant. On 3 March 1997, the applicant appealed to the Supreme
Court. He invoked, inter alia, Articles 9 and 10 of the Convention as
grounds for this appeal and declared that he was a conscientious
objector. On 3 July 1997, the martial Supreme Court upheld the first
On 22 November 1996, the applicant was transferred to the 9th regiment
attached to the gendarmerie headquarter in Bilecik.
He refused to wear the military uniform and to execute the orders from
the regiment commandant. He was detained and placed in the detention
house of the regiment where he refused to wear the prison uniform. In
the charge of 26 November 1996, the military prosecutor attached to the
Eskisehr Air Forces headquarter tribunal of the 1st tactics accused the
applicant of "persistent disobedience" and called for his condemnation
on the ground of Article 87 of the military criminal code. Regarding
the applicant's refusal to wear the detention prison uniform, in a
charge of 26 November 1996, the headquarter tribunal of the 1st tactics
of the Eskisehr Air Forces ("the headquarter tribunal"), condemned the
applicant to a disciplinary measure which restricts the applicant's
right to receive visitors during 15 days. In a decision of 6 March
1997, the tribunal finally sentenced the applicant to 5 months in
prison. On 4 July 1997, the martial Supreme Court upheld the contested
When he was released on 27 December 1996, the applicant did not go to
his regiment. In a charge of 7 March 1997, the military prosecutor
attached to the headquarter tribunal charged the applicant with
desertion and "persistent disobedience ". In a decision of 23 October
1997, the headquarter tribunal sentenced the applicant to 10 months in
prison and to a fine.
On 29 May 1997, the applicant was released provided that he would go to
his regiment to fulfil his military obligations on the 31st of May. As
he did not fulfil this condition, he was arrested on 9 October 1997 and
transferred to Eskisehir prison in order to serve the 10-month prison
sentence decided by the headquarter tribunal on 6 March 1997. In a
charge of 16 October 1997, the military prosecutor attached to the
headquarter tribunal called for the applicant to be condemned for his
desertion between 31 May 1997 and 9 October 1997. In a decision of 22
January 1998, the headquarter tribunal sentenced the applicant to 10
months in prison. In a decision of 30 September 1998, the martial
Supreme Court upheld the first instance decision.
On 26 January 1998, the applicant was escorted to his regiment in
Bilecik. He was arrested because he refused to wear (the) military
uniform. In a decision of 11 June 1998, the headquarter tribunal
sentenced the applicant to 7 months and 15 days in prison. On 7 October
1998, the martial Supreme Court upheld the contested decision.
The applicant was escorted to his regiment on 20 March 1998, and was
arrested, on 21 March 1998, because he refused to wear the military
uniform. In a decision of 4 May 1998, the headquarter tribunal
sentenced the applicant to 7 months and 15 days in prison on the ground
of "persistent disobedience ". On 7 October 1998, the martial Supreme
Court upheld this decision.
On 4 May 1998, the applicant was send back to his regiment where he
refused to wear the military uniform. In a decision of 11 June 1998,
the headquarter tribunal sentenced the applicant to 7 months and 15
days in prison. On 7 October 1998, the martial Supreme Court upheld the
first instance decision.
On 24 November 1998, the applicant was released and transferred to his
regiment where he refused to wear the military uniform once again.
After he was searched for, found and arrested, he was sentenced by the
headquarter tribunal on 26 November 1998 to 7 months and 15 days in
prison. On 22 September 1999, the martial Supreme Court upheld this
[Council of Europe: European Court of Human Rights Second Section:
Judgment as to the Admissibility of the Application N°39437/98 by Osman
Murat Ülke against Turkey, 1 June 2004]
Osman Murat Ülke was released from Eskisehir military prison on 9
March 1999 - again not a proper release, but with an order to present
himself again to his military unit. However, this time Osman Murat Ülke
was not accompanied to the military unit by soldiers, but was ordered
to go on his own, which he did not do. Instead, he went home. Since
then, he lived a semi-legal life, officially being a deserter, but not
In it's judgement on the merits of the case, the European Court of
Human Rights, on 24 January 2006, came to the conclusion: "The
numerous criminal prosecutions against the applicant, the cumulative
effects of the criminal convictions which resulted from them and the
constant alternation between prosecutions and terms of imprisonment,
together with the possibility that he would be liable to prosecution
for the rest of his life, had been disproportionate to the aim of
ensuring that he did his military service. They were more calculated to
repressing the applicant’s intellectual personality, inspiring in him
feelings of fear, anguish and vulnerability capable of humiliating and
debasing him and breaking his resistance and will. The clandestine life
amounting almost to “civil death” which the applicant had been
compelled to adopt was incompatible with the punishment regime of a
Consequently, the Court considered that, taken as a whole and regard
being had to its gravity and repetitive nature, the treatment inflicted
on the applicant had caused him severe pain and suffering which went
beyond the normal element of humiliation inherent in any criminal
sentence or detention. In the aggregate, the acts concerned constituted
degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3."
[European Court of Human Rights: AFFAIRE
ÜLKE c. TURQUIE, Judgement, Requête no 39437/98, 24 January 2006, Press
Release, 24 January 2006]
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the body
overseeing the implementation of judgements of the European Court of
Human Rights, also dealt with the case in several meetings. At it's
meeting on 13-14 February 2007 the Council of Ministers:
"deplored the fact that the Turkish authorities had as yet
taken no individual measure to put an end to the violation found by the
Court, the applicant still being subject to an arrest warrant with a
view to the execution of his sentence."
The recent development - the notice sent by the military
prosecutor's office to the address of Osman Murat Ülke's father,
ordering Osman Murat Ülke to present himself to serve the outstanding
sentences - is a further sign that the Turkish authorities have done
nothing to remedy the situation. To the contrary, Osman Murat Ülke, who
has been living a more or less clandestine life since March 1999, now
is at high risk of being arrested again, in spite of the judgement of
the European Court of Human Rights.
War Resisters' International calls for emails/faxes to the
Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe, urging the CoM to
communicate to the Turkish government the concerns about the possible
arrest of Osman Murat Ülke, and the failure to solve the situation. An
email can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/co/alerts/20070711a.html.
War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the
Turkish authorities, and Turkish embassies abroad.
Presidency of the Turkish Republic: Fax +90-312-4271330,
A protest email to the Turkish President Ahmet Nezdet Secer
can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/co/alerts/20070711b.html.
War Resisters' International calls on the Turkey to finally
solve the situation of Osman Murat Ülke and to comply with the
judgement of the European Court of Human Rights.
War Resisters' International calls on Turkey to finally
recognise the right to conscientious objection, to exempt all existing
conscientious objectors from military service, and to immediately
release imprisoned conscientious objector Halil Savda.
War Resisters' International
Archives of co-alert can be found at http://wri-irg.org/news/alerts