Template letter in support of Greek conscientious objectors


Dear Ambassador

I am writing to draw your attention to the issue of serious human rights violations of conscientious objectors in Greece, as pointed out, inter alia, in the context of six (6) international and regional human rights institutions during the current term of office of the Greek government (UN Human Rights Committeei, UN Human Rights Councilii, European Court of Human Rightsiii, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,iv European Committee of Social Rights of the Council of Europev, Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rightsvi)

Unfortunately, the bill currently proposed by the Greek Ministry of National Defence fails once more to bring the legislation in live with the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee and other institutions.

More specifically:

  • it does not address the punitive and discriminatory character of the alternative civilian service as of its:

    • duration, since the bill does not guarantee a reduction of the duration of the alternative service, leaving it at the discretion of each Minister of National Defence, while also maintaining a provision that the alternative service is, in principle, double than the military service.

    • nature, since the bill does not abolish the prohibition to perform the alternative service in the region of residence of the conscientious objector.

    • cost, since the bill does not change the legislative provisions providing those performing alternative service with, either only food and housing, without any salary at all, or a salary which fails to reach the threshold for decent living.

  • it maintains the procedure of examination of applications for conscientious objector’s status under the Ministry of National Defence, with the final decision taken by the (Alternate) Minister of National Defence, after a recommendation of a special committee with the participation of a military officer.

  • it fails to address the repetitive punishment of certain conscientious objectors in violation of ne bis in idem principle.

I urge the Greek authorities to comply with the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee:

“38. The State party should take measures to review its legislation with a view to recognizing the right to conscientious objection to military service, encompassing an alternative to military service that is accessible to all conscientious objectors and not punitive or discriminatory in terms of its nature, cost or duration. The State party should also avoid repetitive punishment in violation of the ne bis in idem principle and consider placing the assessment of applications for conscientious objector status under the full control of civilian authorities.” [emphasis added]

Yours respectfully,



iUN Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Greece, (CCPR/C/GRC/CO/2), 3 December 2015, paras. 37-38.

iiUN Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Greece, (A/HRC/33/7), 8 July 2016, recommendation 136.15 (Uruguay), 136.16 (Slovenia).

iiiECtHR, CASE OF PAPAVASILAKIS v. GREECE, Application No 66899/14, 15.9.2016.

ivUN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Communication GRC 3/2016, 31 October 2016.

vECSR, Conclusions XXI-1 - Greece - Article 1-2, para. 3. Other aspects of the right to earn one’s living in an occupation freely entered upon. Service alternative to military service.

viOHCHR, Conscientious objection to military service, Analytical report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, (A/HRC/35/4), 1 May 2017, paras. 18 (note 29), 51, 53, 54 (note 77).

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