Committee of Ministers of the European Council urges Turkey to recognize the right of conscientious objection

(13.06.2024) The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 46, paragraph 2, of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which provides that the Committee supervises the execution of final judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter “the Convention” and “the Court”);

Having regard to the final judgments transmitted by the Court to the Committee in these cases and in particular to the violations of Articles 3 and 9 of the Convention established on account of the applicants’ repetitive prosecutions and convictions for refusing to carry out compulsory military service as pacifists and conscientious objectors, as a result of which they are compelled to lead clandestine lives amounting to “civil death”, and the absence of a procedure to establish their status as conscientious objectors;

Noting the statistical data provided by the authorities on the number of conscientious objectors in Türkiye since 2006; and also the information concerning Law No. 7179, adopted in 2019, which reduced the duration of compulsory military service from 12 months to six and introduced the option of “military service by payment”, allowing conscripts to reduce their military service to only one month in exchange for payment of a fixed fee; 

Underlining, however, once again that the option of “paid military service” and reduction of the length of compulsory military service cannot alleviate the need for the legislative amendments, as those measures do not offer an alternative to mandatory military service;

Reiterating the obligation of every State, under the terms of Article 46, paragraph 1 of the Convention to abide by the final judgments of the Court to which they are a party, fully, effectively and promptly;

EXPRESSED ITS DEEP CONCERN that the first judgment in this group became final in 2006 and that, despite two interim resolutions adopted by the Committee in 2007 and 2009, and its repeated calls on the authorities, no concrete steps have been taken to introduce the legislative reforms necessary to protect the applicants and others in their situation from similar, continuous violations of their Convention rights;

DEEPLY REGRETTED in this context that three of the applicants in these cases (Osman Murat Ülke, Yunus Erçep and Ersin Ölgün) are still considered draft evaders and continue to face the threat of criminal and administrative proceedings as well as numerous restrictions on their daily lives that amounts to a situation of “civil death”, that criminal proceedings have been pending against Mehmet Tarhan since 2005, that the proceedings initiated by Barış Görmez before the Constitutional Court are still pending and that Ersin Ölgün was once again fined in December 2023 for not reporting for military service;

INVITED the authorities to provide information on annulment or reimbursement of the fine if it has been paid by the applicant;

STRONGLY URGED the authorities therefore to take without further delay all necessary measures to put an end to the violation of the applicants’ rights under the Convention and to adopt rapidly the legislative or other reforms necessary to prevent similar violations of the Convention;

ENCOURAGED them to draw inspiration from the experience of other member States which have put in place or are putting in place systems and procedures to comply with judgments finding violations of Article 9 on account of the absence of an alternative service for those who refuse to perform military service on grounds of conscience and to address the Court’s findings in the present groups of cases within the framework of the new Human Rights Action Plan and the new Judicial Reform Strategy Paper;

INVITED the authorities to provide information on the above issues by the end of March 2025 at the latest.

Ministers‘ Deputies, Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2024)126. June 13, 2024. Ülke group v. Turkey (Application n° 39437/98).[%220900001680b05d3e%22],%22sort%22:[%22CoEValidationDate%20Descending%22]%7D

Keywords:    ⇒ Conscientious Objection   ⇒ Europe   ⇒ Prosecution   ⇒ Turkey