Greece: Issues about conscientious objectors raised again in two UN procedures

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Conscientious objectors to military service in Greece continue to face violations of human rights and this does not pass unnoticed from international and regional monitoring procedures, including at the level of the United Nations.

Universal Periodic Review

In the context of the 3rd Cycle of Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council, Greece has received two recommendations, from Panama and Croatia, concerning conscientious objectors to military service[i]:

6.76   Revise its national legislation with a view to recognizing the right to conscientious objection to military service, envisaging an alternative service to military service to which all conscientious objectors have access to and that is not punitive or discriminatory in its nature, cost or duration (Panama)

6.88   Consider amending the legislation in order for conscientious objectors to be able to perform alternative civilian service in their place of residence (Croatia)

These recommendations followed several submissions by civil society organisations, including by War Resisters’ International (WRI), (see also here) highlighting violations of human rights of conscientious objectors (COs) in Greece. Other submissions on COs have been made by the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO), to which WRI is a member, together with the Association of Greek Conscientious Objectors (AGCO), and the International Fellowship for Reconciliation (IFOR), while issues of conscientious objectors have been raised also in the submissions of the Humanist Union of Greece (HUG) (see paras. 18-19) and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR) (see para.19). As a result, issues of conscientious objectors in Greece were cited in the Summary of Stakeholders Submission for Greece (paras. 6 and 35).

Worth noting that Greece had also received,[ii] but rejected, two recommendations about conscientious objectors to military service in the context of the previous Cycle in 2016.

Human Rights Committee

The UN Human Rights Committee, the body monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has included once again conscientious objectors in the list of issues in the context of the 3rd periodic report of Greece[iii]:

“20. With reference to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 38), please report on the measures taken to provide all conscientious objectors with an alternative to military service that is not punitive or discriminatory in terms of its nature, cost or duration. Please provide information on measures taken to ensure respect for the ne bis in idem principle and avoid inflicting repetitive punishments on conscientious objectors. Please provide information on the impact of Law No. 4361/2016, which ended prosecutions against those who had declared their conscientious objection before 1998, and indicate if the State party intends to provide adequate compensation to those who have already been sentenced and punished.”

This reference was preceded by submissions of civil society organisations, such as IFOR and Amnesty International (see pp. 8-10), as well the Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR) (see paras. 90-92), highlighting Greece’s violations of ICCPR in the case of COs.


Notes

[i] UN Human Rights Council, Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Greece, (A/HRC/WG.6/39/L.1), 9 November 2021, recommendations 6.76 (Panama), 6.88 (Croatia).

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

[iii] UN Human Rights Committee, List of issues prior to the submission of the third periodic report of Greece (Advance unedited version), (CCPR/C/GRC/QPR/3), 2 December 2021, para. 20.

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