New report: Right to Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Turkey

“I do not know how many records were issued against me”

by Connection e.V., IFOR, EBCO, WRI and Vicdani Ret İzleme

Conscientious Objection Watch has published a new report about the still missing right of conscientious objection in Turkey, not only describing the prosecution and punishment but also the consequences for conscientious objectors to live in a state of civil death. The report has been released with the support of Bertha-von-Suttner-Stiftung and in collaboration with the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, Connection e.V., International Fellowship of Reconciliation and War Resisters’ International

“In August 2022, the workplace received a warning. It was stated that it was a crime to employ a draft evader. They were given 2 months to dismiss me. In September 2022, I was dismissed. ” - Conscientious objector Seyda Can Yılmaz

Authored by Hülya Üçpınar and Merve Arkun, the report was prepared by interviewing 7 conscientious objectors from Turkey and lawyers working in the field. The report aims to provide a broad perspective on the restriction of conscientious objectors’ freedom of movement, the violation of their right to work and the civil death they experienced in Turkey.

There is no publicly available official data or statistics on the right to conscientious objection in Turkey. The data and graphs presented in this report was compiled through the monitoring work carried out by Vicdani Ret İzleme to determine the situation of conscientious objectors and those who are obliged to perform compulsory military service.

“Even with a bachelor’s degree, I am in a position where I cannot work in state institutions. One of the first conditions required in the private sector is that I fulfill my military service obligation. This means employment without insurance and informally... In other words, I am forced to work informally just because I am a conscientious objector.” - Conscientious objector Hüseyin Civan

Since 17 years ruling of European Court ignored

Seventeen years after the European Court of Human Rights ruling in 2006 in Ülke v. Turkey, Turkey still does not recognize the right to conscientious objection to military service. In Turkey, conscientious objectors are not only prosecuted and punished on charges of draft evasion, evasion or desertion, but also face many other rights violations and restrictions, including administrative fines, repeated prosecutions on the same charges, violations of their rights to education, voting and work, and restrictions on their freedom of movement.

“I do not know how many records were issued against me, but I estimate about 10. Some of these records were issued in hotels and similar places where I had to stay because of the necessity to travel out of the city. Once, both the police and the gendarmerie issued records against me, within 5 minutes apart. ” - Conscientious objector Gökhan Soysal

The October-December 2022 Conscientious Objection Watch Bulletin, published by Conscientious Objection Watch in January 2023, contains data on the most frequent violations/restrictions of rights faced by conscientious objectors and persons subject to compulsory military service throughout 2022. According to these data, the most common rights violations were restrictions on the right to work and freedom of movement. These two categories are important to see the conditions of civil death due to the lack of legislation on the right to conscientious objection.

The report evaluates the "civil death" processes experienced by conscientious objectors, especially in the context of restrictions on freedom of movement and violations of the right to work, and draws attention to the incompatibility between Turkish legislation and international human rights law.

“In the summer of 2018, while filling in the document required for the visa, I was asked ‘Can you wait here for a while?’ and was shown a corner. They called the police. The police took me to the recruitment office.” - Conscientious objector B.Ş.

“The report draws attention to the necessity of a policy change regarding the right to conscientious objection in order to eliminate the conditions of civilian death experienced by conscientious objectors and the consequences”, Merve Arkun is stating. The authors of the report emphasize the necessity of realizing the fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the Constitution in domestic law and fulfilling the requirements of international human rights mechanisms within the scope of policy change. A demand that has been overdue for 17 years.

Download the full 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”

Submission to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

Conscientious Objection Watch, European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, Connection e.V., International Fellowship of Reconciliation and the War Resisters’ International made a joint submission under Rule 9.2 for the implementation of the judgments in the Ülke Group cases. The application has been submitted to the Committee of Ministers (CoM) of the Council of Europe, which is monitoring Turkey for the implementation of this judgment.

The CoM has asked the Turkish Government several times to submit an “action plan” that includes political and practical measures regarding the recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service. The Turkish government submitted actions plans 31 March 20205 August 2021 and 29 March 2023, but didn’t propose any provision for conscientious objection.

Connection e.V., IFOR, EBCO, WRI und Vicdani Ret İzleme: Press release, June 2, 2023

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