IFOR addresses the UN Human Rights Council on the right to refuse to kill


On March 10th, on the occasion of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, IFOR participated in the Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, and addressed the issue of the right to conscientious objection to military service in the plenary.

The statement has been co-sponsored by War Resisters' International and referred as well to the concerning situation of armed conflicts.

Human Rights Council, 49th Session 

Geneva, 10th March 2022 

Item 2: Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief Joint oral statement delivered by the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. 

Mr. President, 

We thank the Special Rapporteur for His report1 and share the same concern for the violation of the right to  conscientious objection to military service of objectors from religious or belief minorities. We are aware of two Jehovah’s Witnesses currently imprisoned as conscientious objectors in South Korea.2 There  are twenty others imprisoned in Eritrea3 where there is a system of indefinite National Service. Last year we had the case of Ukrainian protestant conscientious objectors in the Rivne region whose right has  been violated.4 

Violations of the right to conscientious objection to military service continue in many countries. In Colombia, young people are recruited by the official army through arbitrary detentions [batidas], although the  Constitutional Court has forbidden it in 2011.5 

Conscientious objectors continue to be imprisoned in various countries, such as Turkmenistan6, Singapore7,  Eritrea8, Tajikistan9, Israel10. 

In Turkey, Eritrea and Singapore the right is not recognized. Turkish objectors are facing a situation of “civil  death”.11 

As highlighted by the SR in His report, we are deeply alarmed by the violation of this right in situations of armed  conflicts. 

Ukraine compels all males of age 18-60 to take arms and fight in the current war; on the other side we witness  the arresting of thousands of anti-war Russian citizens, and we hear that not only contract soldiers, but also  ordinary conscripts are employed in the war.12 

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is a non-derogable right, like freedom of expression, and it continues  to apply regardless of a situation of armed conflict. 

We urge all member States to release all imprisoned conscientious objectors and respect international standards  [for the exercise of the right to conscientious objection]. 



1 A/HRC/49/44https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session49/Documents/A_HRC_49_44_AdvanceUneditedVersion.docx

2 https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/south-korea/jehovahs-witnesses-in-prison/ 

3 As of March 2022. https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/eritrea/jehovahs-witnesses-in-prison/ 

4 Parag. 79 of the thirty-first report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the human rights situation in  Ukraine (1 August 2020 to 31 January 2021), based on the work of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU). https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/31stReportUkraine-en.pdf 

5 Sentence C-879/11 - Measures to compel those who have not complied with the obligation to register in order to define their military situation - They  cannot consist of arbitrary detentions that violate personal liberty or judicial confidentiality. 

6 https://www.ecoi.net/en/document/2025552.html

7 https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/singapore/jehovahs-witnesses-in-prison/

8 https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=26439&LangID=E

9 https://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2629

10 https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-conscientious-objector-released-from-military-prison/ 

https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=INT%2fCCPR%2fCSS%2fISR%2f47719&Lang=en 11 The situation of conscientious objectors is defined as “civil death” by European Court of Human Rights. (Ulke v. Turkey, application no. 39437/98). 12 https://takiedela.ru/news/2022/02/24/komitet-soldatskikh-materey/ 



Click here to download the official statement.

To watch live or recorded the Human Rights Council you can click here.

Click here to watch IFOR Main representative at the UN, Ms. Zaira Zafarana, delivering the statement at the Human Rights Council.

Programmes & Projects

Add new comment