Imprisonment of conscientious objector İnan Süver

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Dear Mr President Abdullah Gül,

I am concerned about the re-arrest of conscientious objector İnan Süver on 12 September in Istanbul. He has been re-arrested for escaping from hospital whilst serving a prison sentence for conscientious objection.

İnan was sentenced in absentia to five months imprisonment for his escape from prison.

He was released on 9 December 2011 from Balıkesir prison following an Aegean Armed Forces Command Court decision to suspend his sentence due to his deteriorating health condition. A mental health assessment at Gülhane Military Medical Academy in Istanbul confirmed he is suffering from a‘psychological illness’.

İnan Süver's lawyers declared that his mental health has further deteriorated and argue that a further spell in prison is likely to have a negative impact.

İnan Suver was called up for military service in 2001, and according to the information presently available, he deserted after about 13 months of service, but was arrested and spent seven months in prison. When İnan Suver initially deserted, he had not heard of the concept of conscientious objection. Once he learned about the concept and the politics behind it, he declared himself a conscientious objector in 2009.

His conscientious objection is a human right protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Further to this, on 7 July 2011, the European Court of Human Rights, in their judgement Bayatyan v. Armenia, ruled that states have a duty to respect individuals’ right to conscientious objection to military service as part of their obligation to respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Since then, the European Court of Human Rights has consolidated its jurisprudence in judgements on Turkey (Demirtaş v. Turkey from 17 January 2012; Erçep v. Turkey from 22 November 2011; Savda v. Turkey from 12 June 2012, and Tarhan v. Turkey from 17 July 2012).

As his initial imprisonment for conscientious objection was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, I would consider this further sentence for escaping from prison null and void, as he should not have been in prison at all.

Furthermore, he has been released from prison for health reasons which still stand, and his reincarceration is likely to have a further negative impact on his mental health.

I therefore urge you to immediately release İnan Süver.

Yours sincerely,