TURKEY: Conscientious objector İsmail Saygı arrested


Turkish conscientious objector İsmail Saygı has been arrested on 16 March 2008 in Istanbul. İsmail Saygı declared his conscientious objection on 15 November
2006, after having served seven month of military service. Following his arrest, İsmail Saygı was first taken to the Uskudar Military Police, and from there to Maltepe Military prison. After 10 days, he was transferred to the military prison of Sarikamis on 26 March 2008.
İsmail Saygı is now facing a trial on charges of desertion, which can lead to a one year prison sentence. It is likely that this is the beginning of a vicious cycle of military prison, sentencing for "disobeying orders" or "insubordination", and being sent back to "his" unit.

Turkey does not recognise the right to conscientious objection, in violation of article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In a decision from 24 January 2006 on the case of Osman Murat Ülke, the European Court of Human Rights decided against Turkey and noted: "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 democratic society."

The United Nations Human Rights Committee recognised in a decision from January 2007 the right to conscientious objection as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience,
and religion, as guaranteed by Article 18 ICCPR. In fact, in this decision on two cases of conscientious objectors from South Korea, the Human Rights Committee stated that not to provide for the right to conscientious objection is a violation of Article 18 ICCPR (see CCPR/C/88/D/1321-1322/2004 from 23 January 2007).

War Resisters' International is very concerned for the health and safety of İsmail Saygı. It has happened in several past cases of conscientious objectors imprisoned in Turkey that objectors were subjected to arbitrary rescrictions and disciplinary punishments in
military prison.

In the case of İsmail Saygı, War Resisters' International calls for urgent protest faxes to:

  • Kars Legal Clerk: +90-474-413 4084

  • Kars Military Prosecutor: +90-474-413 5819

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, email cumhurbaskanligi@tccb.gov.tr.

A protest email to the Turkish President Abdullah Gül can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/co/alerts/20080327a.html.

Andreas Speck

War Resisters' International