TURKMENISTAN: Conscientious objectors continue to be convicted

Six conscientious objectors – all of them Jehovah's Witnesses refusing to be conscripted on grounds of conscience – have been reported to be convicted and sentenced in Turkmenistan so far in 2016. Five of the COs were sentenced to two-year suspended prison terms for their refusal to compulsory military service, and a sixth received a one-year corrective labour sentence, where he lives at home under restrictions and a fifth of his wages are seized.

All six young men were sentenced under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1, according to which refusing to serve in the armed forces in peacetime can be punished with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or two years' corrective labour.

Turkmenistan offers no alternative to its compulsory military service. Article 58 of the new Constitution describes defence as a "sacred duty" of everyone and states that military service is compulsory for men. Military service for men between the ages of 18 and 27 is generally two years.

In July this year, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee found that Turkmenistan violated the rights of five other Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In its July session, the Committee reminded its call to Turkmenistan's government that it had already called on it in 2012 to introduce a civilian alternative service.

Source: Forum 18, TURKMENISTAN: Conscientious objectors face corrective labour sentences, 5 July 2016, Forum18, TURKMENISTAN: Six conscientious objectors sentenced in 2016, 3 October 2016.