ECtHR judgement on Russian CO case disregards 53 years of international human rights standards

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On 29th October, War Resisters' International (WRI), European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO), International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and Connection e.V. released a statement on a problematic judgment by the European Court of Human Rights on the case of a Russian conscientious objector, Maksim Andreyevich Dyagilev. Read the statement here.

Dyagilev's application for conscientious objection

Dyagilev, from Russia, applied for conscientious objection and alternative civilian service in September 2014. His application was dismissed by the local military commissariat in November same year, on the basis that the documents and information he had provided were "not sufficiently persuasive to conclude that he was a genuine pacifist". Dyagilev subsequently challenged that decision at the Russian courts which were dismissed as well. Eventually, in August 2016, Dyagilev brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). 

The ECtHR's judgment

In its judgment on 10th March 2020, the ECtHR, by four votes to three, found that there has been no violation of Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (freedom of thought, belief and religion). Subsequently, Dyagilev's lawyers attempted to bring this judgment to the Grand Chamber, the highest body within the ECtHR, but their application was dismissed in September this year. 

In their statement, WRI, EBCO, IFOR and Connection e.V. criticised this decision by the ECtHR and said:

"In this judgement, a small majority of judges found that the military recruitment commission [which evaluated Dyagilev's initial application] “satisfies the prima facie requirement of independence” despite the fact that three out of seven of its members are representatives of the Ministry of Defence. In this ECtHR judgement, a slim majority [of judges] disregards all other relevant international and regional human rights standards set by numerous UN and European institutions for more than half a century.

The statement followed, "in this case, the majority of ECtHR judges appear to ignore that “no court and no committee can examine a person’s conscience”, and that “in order to be recognized as a conscientious objector, a declaration setting out the individual's motives should suffice in order to obtain the status of conscientious objector”, as European Parliament’s resolutions have repeatedly stated for over 30 years."

Highlighting multiple United Nations and Council of Europe procedures and resolutions, the statement concluded: this year’s ECtHR judgement in the Dyagilev v. Russia case contradicts longstanding international and regional human rights standards concerning the recognition of COs, as well as its’ own broader rationale on independence and impartiality. ... This ECtHR ruling, concerning a single case with specific characteristics, adopted by a majority of just one judge, and not examined by the Grand Chamber does not set a general precedent for Russia and cannot annul the growing jurisprudence on the right to conscientious objection to military service."

Read the full statement here.


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