Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights condemns imprisonment of conscientious objectors


On 2 February 2012, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, demanded that the right to conscientious objection to military service should be guaranteed in all parts of Europe. In his blog post, he stated:

"People should not be imprisoned when their religious or other convictions prevent them from doing military service. Instead they should be offered a genuinely civilian alternative. This is now the established European standard, respected in most countries – but there are some unfortunate exceptions."

Hammarberg referred to the Bayatyan v Armenia judgment of the European Court, and commented that "no less than seven have put objectors in prison in recent years". He then singled out Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey for imprisoning conscientious objectors.
Hammarberg also highlighted the case of Halil Savda. He stated:

"The problem in Turkey is compounded by restrictions to freedom of expression. The Turkish Criminal Code (Article 318, formerly Article 155) has been used to prosecute non-violent expressions of support for conscientious objection. This has given rise to several judgments of the Strasbourg Court finding violations of Article 10 of the European Convention on free speech.
The Court has held that a newspaper article with such a message cannot be considered as incitement to immediate desertion. However, the Turkish Criminal Code treats dissemination through the press as an aggravating circumstance. Among many others, Halil Savda, himself a conscientious objector, has been condemned several times under Article 318 for speaking in public in favour of the right to conscientious objection.

Hammarberg closes his blog post with a clear demand: "Conscientious objection is a human right. It is thus high time that all member states complied with their commitments and recognised this right effectively."

Source: Thomas Hammarberg: The right to conscientious objection to military service should be guaranteed in all parts of Europe, 2 February 2012

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