Greece: Unprecedented military trial of CO who had petitioned for alternative service of 30 months
A 45-year-old conscientious objector who, 17 years ago, had applied and was denied to perform an alternative civilian service of 30 months (instead of 12 months of military service), is summoned to trial by a military court on October 26th, 2020.
K.K. had applied for CO status for ideological reasons and to perform the then extremely punitive alternative civilian service, back in 2003. His application was rejected in 2004 by the Greek Minister of National Defence, after recommendation of a 5-membered special committee which by that time included 2 military officers.
His successive appeals to the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, and to the European Court of Human Rights were rejected, since the ECtHR did not start to examine such cases of rejected applications for CO status until several years later – when found a violation of Article 9 in the Papavasilakis v. Greece case.i
Meanwhile, K.K. in 2010 was again called up for military service, but he insisted in his conscientious objection. Subsequently, he was declared insubordinate and was fined with 6,000 euros. The fiscal authorities were notified, resulting in confiscation of money from his bank account.
Now, having passed the age for conscription, he is summoned for a trial at a military court, charged with insubordination for the period from 2010 to 2019. According to the law, he is facing a sentence of up to 2 years imprisonment.
Blatant violations of international law
The trial of K.K. constitutes a multiple and blatant violation of international human rights law, both as for the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as of the right to fair trial.
Applications for CO status should be accepted without inquiry since “no court and no committee can examine a person's conscience” and “a declaration setting out the individual's motives should suffice in order to obtain the status of conscientious objector”, as it has been repeatedly stated by the European Parliament.ii
The UN Commission on Human Rights, already since 1998,iii had welcomed “the fact that some States accept claims of conscientious objection as valid without inquiry” and so has reiterated its successor, the UN Human Rights Council.iv
In any case, the application of K.K. was rejected by the Minister of National Defence, and moreover, after a recommendation of a committee with military members, something which contravenes even the most fundamental human rights standards established by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe already since 1967, which require: “Where the decision regarding the recognition of the right of conscientious objection is taken in the first instance by an administrative authority, the decision-taking body shall be entirely separate from the military authorities and its composition shall guarantee maximum independence and impartiality.”
The Greek authorities, until today, continue to disregard repeated similar recommendations by the UN Human Rights Committee,v the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or belief,vi and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe,vii requiring explicitly from Greece to transfer the assessment of applications for CO status from the Ministry of National Defence to an independent civilian department / under the full control of civilian authorities.
Furthermore, the trial of conscientious objector K.K. by a military court constitutes a blatant violation of the right to fair trial (Article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights), as it has been established in numerous judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.viii
War Resisters' International demands the immediate cease of prosecution of K.K., the annulment of the administrative fine and the return of the amount of money which has been confiscated. Greece should promptly bring its legislation regarding conscientious objection in line with international human rights law and standards.
ii European Parliament, Resolution on conscientious objection and alternative service, (Α3-15/89), [known as Schmidbauer Resolution], 13 October 1989, as published in the Official Journal of the European Communities C291, 20 October 1989, para. Α (page 123) and para. 4 (page 124). See also: European Parliament, Resolution on conscientious objection, (1-546/82), [known as Macciocchi Resolution], 7 February 1983, as published in the Official Journal of the European Communities C 68, 14 March 1983, para. 3 (page 15).
iii UN Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 1998/77, Conscientious objection to military service, 22 April 1998, (E/CN.4/RES/1998/77), para. 2. Available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3b00f0be10.html
v UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the initial report of Greece, (CCPR/CO/83/GRC), 25 April 2005, para. 15. Available at http://undocs.org/CCPR/CO/83/GRC. UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Greece, (CCPR/C/GRC/CO/2), 3 December 2015, paras. 37-38. Available at http://undocs.org/CCPR/C/GRC/CO/2
vi UN Economic and Social Council, Commission on human rights, Civil and political rights, including the question of religious intolerance, Addendum, Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received, E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.1, 27 March 2006, para. 139. Available at: http://undocs.org/E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.1.
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Communication GRC 3/2016, 31 October 2016, p. 6.
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Communication GRC 3/2019, 11 July 2019, p. 5.
viii ECtHR, Ercep v Turkey (43965/04), 22 November 2011, para. 70. Available at http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-107532. Savda v Turkey (42730/05), 12 June 2012, para. 111. Available at http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-111414. Feti Demirtas v Turkey (5260/07), 17 January 2012, para. 125. Available at http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-108617