Turkish-Cypriots should urgently have the human right to conscientious objection to military service recognised by law

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poster for the joints statement in support of Mustafa Hurben

The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO), War Resisters’ International (WRI), the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), and Connection e.V. (Germany) denounce the continuing prosecutions and imprisonments of conscientious objectors in the northern, Turkish-occupied, part of Cyprus (the self-styled “Turkish Republic of North Cyprus”). They are clearly blatant human rights violations. The right to conscientious objection to military service should be urgently recognised in line with the European and international law and human rights standards.

The four organisations express their deep disappointment about the imprisonment of Mustafa Hürben on 23 January 2024. He is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his genuine opposition to the compulsory military service. Moreover, the four organisations express their grave concern about the new prosecution of Halil Karapaşaoğlu, despite the fact that his conviction on the same charges in 2019 has already been referred to the European Court of Human Rights (see below). He is also a genuine conscientious objector, prosecuted solely for his beliefs; the four orgnisations call for the dropping of all charges against him.

EBCO Chief Editor Derek Brett and WRI Executive Committee member Merve Arkun attended as international observers at the trial of Mustafa Hürben on 18 January 2024 at the Security Forces Court (the Military Court) in the northern part of Nicosia. Even the prosecution did not challenge Hürben’s right to conscientious objection, but as there is no legislative provision the Judge explained that the option of acquittal was not available. However, in view of the existing international jurisprudence outlined by Hürben’s counsel, the Court was reluctant to impose any more than the most nominal penalty, namely a fine of 800TL (approximately €25). By law, if this was not paid within five days he would be imprisoned for three days. Hürben announced in Court that he had no intention of paying the fine, and asked if he could go directly to prison, but the due process had to be followed, and he was accordingly arrested yesterday (Tuesday 23rd January), symbolically in front of the Parliament building during a solidarity action organised by the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus (Kıbrıs'ta Vicdani Ret).

Derek Brett will again attend as international observer at the trial of Halil Karapaşaoğlu, also at the Security Forces Court in the northern part of Nicosia on 1 February 2024 – next Thursday.

The four organisations call the Parliament to recognise that there is a right of conscientious objection to military service, as the judge did yesterday, but until there is legislation on procedures to implement it their hands are tied if any case of a refuser is brought before them. There were precedents in Colombia and Korea for the courts recognising the right before the politicians did.

The four organisations express their solidarity with the Turkish-Cypriots conscientious objectors as well as with the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus, and remind that the following three cases of conscientious objectors from the northern part of Cyprus are already pending against Türkiye before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) [1]:

  1. Halil Karapaşaoğlu v. Türkiye (case number 40627/19). The case was accepted by the ECtHR on 10/01/2020. [2] On 05/07/2019 Halil Karapaşaoğlu submitted an application to the ECtHR against Türkiye for violations of articles 5, 6 and 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights: (Art. 5) Right to liberty and security, (Art. 6) Right to a fair trial, (Art. 9) Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  2. Haluk Selam Tufanlı v. Türkiye (case number 29367/15 [3]). The application concerns the refusal of the applicant, a conscientious objector, to attend reservist service for military mobilisation training in 2011. On 02/06/2015 Haluk Selam Tufanlı submitted an application to the ECtHR against Türkiye for violations of articles 5 § 1, 4 and 5, 9 and 13 of the European Convention of Human Rights: (Art. 5) Right to liberty and security, (Art. 9) Freedom of thought, conscience and religion, (Art. 13) Right to an effective remedy.
  3. Murat Kanatlı v. Türkiye (case number 18382/15 [4]). The application concerns the refusal of the applicant, who is a conscientious objector and an activist, to attend reservist service when called to attend training for military mobilisation in 2009. On 06/04/2015 Murat Kanatlı submitted an application to the ECtHR against Türkiye for violations of articles 5 § 1, 4 and 5, 6, 9, 13 and 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights: (Art. 5) Right to liberty and security, (Art. 6) Right to a fair trial, (Art. 9) Freedom of thought, conscience and religion, (Art. 13) Right to an effective remedy, (Art. 14) Prohibition of discrimination.

The right to conscientious objection to military service is inherent in the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, guaranteed under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is non-derogable even in a time of public emergency, as stated in Article 4(2) of ICCPR.

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND INTERVIEWS please contact:

Derek Brett, Chief Editor of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (+41 77 444 4420; derekubrett@gmail.com)

Murat Kanatlı and Gina Chappa, Coordinators of the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus (muratkanatli@gmail.com)

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