Turkey: Clear call from the Council of Europe for recognition of conscientious objection

(26.06.2023) 17 years after the first ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in favor of a Turkish conscientious objector, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe now took a surprisingly straightforward stance (H46-36 Ülke group v. Turkey). It strongly urged the Turkish authorities to provide an “action plan” that includes concrete proposals for legislative amendments to address the Court’s findings in this group as well as political and practical measures regarding the recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service. At the same time, the Committee of Ministers announced that otherwise, it would adopt a resolution for an interim solution in a year’s time.

“We welcome the Committee’s recent decisions on the Ülke Group, which are under the qualified monitoring procedure of the Committee of Ministers”, stated Merve Arkun for the group Conscientious Objection Watch. However, the fact that Turkey’s action plans on the Ülke Group have been almost the same for the last few years and that the government persistently presents military service by payment as an "alternative" to conscientious objection, shows that the government insists on standing at an arrow far from recognizing the right to conscientious objection and the ECtHR judgments. It is very important that the current situation of conscientious objectors in Turkey is kept on the agenda.”

Turkey still does not recognize the right to conscientious objection. Conscientious objectors are not only prosecuted and punished for military conscientious objection or desertion, but also face many other rights violations and restrictions, including heavy fines, repeated prosecutions on the same charges, violations of their right to education, voting rights, and work, restrictions on their freedom of movement and the “civil deaths” of conscientious objectors.

Prior to the Committee of Ministers’ resolution, Conscientious Objection Watch (Turkey), European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, Connection e.V., the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and War Resisters’ International had presented a joint statement to the Committee of Ministers (CoM) of the Council of Europe. They unequivocally reminded the CoM that Turkey’s existing arrangement of paying a substitute payment of about €5,000 for completing military service and serving only one month of military service does not constitute recognition of conscientious objection. “Individuals who choose this option must complete one month of basic military training, which includes wearing a uniform and weapons training.”

Also submitted was an extensive report detailing the rights violations that conscientious objectors face. The report features seven conscientious objectors who talk about their experiences and the impact on their lives. The report report “The Multiplier Effect Of The Violation Of The Right To Conscientious Objection: Restrictions Of Conscientious Objector’s Freedom of Movement And Violation Of Their Right To Work” can be downloaded here. A printed version (in German/English) can be ordered via the online shop of Connection e.V.

On the recent decisions of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the Ülke Group: H46-36 Ülke group v. Turkey, June 17, 2023.

Connection e.V.: Press release, June 26, 2023

Keywords:    ⇒ Conscientious Objection   ⇒ Prosecution   ⇒ Turkey