On 8 June, Azerbaijan's Supreme Court rejected Jehovah's Witness Seymur Mammadov's final appeal against his conviction for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. Initially jailed, he is now halfway through a one-year suspended sentence. He is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which found in favour of seven conscientious objectors jailed or given suspended sentences earlier. The ECtHR judgments "called for legislative action on civilian service as an alternative to military service".
On 22 September, a Goranboy court jailed 22-year-old Jehovah's Witness Seymur Mammadov for nine months for refusing compulsory military service on conscientious grounds. On 25 July – two days after his 18th birthday – officers seized conscientious objector Royal Karimov and forcibly took him to a military unit in Ganca, where he is still held.
On 7 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a decision that Azerbaijan had violated the human rights of two Jehovah's Witness young men, Emil Mehdiyev and Vahid Abilov, who had been convicted in 2018 for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience.
The latest issue of our newsletter CO Update is out! In this issue, you'll find stories on conscientious objection and conscription from Ukraine,Turkey, Eritrea, Germany, USA, Azerbaijan, Thailand, among others.
Ruling party deputy Siyavush Novruzov told parliament on 30 March that an Alternative Service Law should be adopted. Parliament's Defence Committee is handling this, he told Forum 18. The government has not made public any draft. Azerbaijan committed to the Council of Europe to have alternative service by 2003 but failed to meet its obligation.
On 17th October, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) convicted Azerbaijan for violating Article 9 (right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of five conscientious objectors (all Jehovah's Witnesses) who were prosecuted and sentenced to imprisonment for their refusal to perform military service.
18-year-old Emil Mehdiyev repeatedly expressed willingness to perform a civilian alternative to compulsory military service. Instead, he was given a criminal conviction, a one-year suspended prison term, and will be under probation for one year. Seven similar criminal cases against other young men are with Prosecutor's Offices.
Azerbaijan's two known imprisoned conscientious objectors – both Jehovah's Witnesses - have been freed as part of a prisoner amnesty to mark what would have been the late President Heydar Aliev's 90th birthday. Of the two known imprisoned conscientious objectors, Fakhraddin Mirzayev was amnestied on 22 May after eight months' imprisonment and Kamran Mirzayev (no relation) was amnestied on 20 June after three months' imprisonment.
Right to conscientious objection still not guaranteed in Europe
Amnesty International, marking the International Conscientious Objectors Day, renews its call on all states to recognise the right to conscientious objection to military service. Nearly two years ago the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that states must respect the right to conscientious objection as part of their obligation to respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, bringing European law in line with international human rights standards.
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 8, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict