Editorial

Dear friend and supporter of War Resisters' International,

The situation of conscientious objectors in Greece has been a focus of War Resisters' International's work for the last six months, and is also the focus of this years' campaign for International Conscientious Objectors' Day on 15th May.

Greece was the last country of the European Union to recognise the right to conscientious objection when it finally did so in 1997. However, despite this recognition there are numerous problems with Greek CO law and practice which amount to discrimination against conscientious objectors. In the CO Day issue of The Broken Rifle, which is enclosed, you will find background information on the situation in Greece.

As part of its recent campaign to support conscientious objectors in Greece, War Resisters' International submitted a special report to the United Nations' Human Rights Committee on Greece in February, and Kat Barton presented this report to the Committee in person in New York in March. War Resisters' International acted several times on behalf of conscientious objectors in Greece, most recently especially on the cases of Lazaros Petromelidis (see The Broken Rifle No 66), and Georgios Monastiriotis, a Greek professional soldier who refused deployment to Iraq.

This has already lead to some positive results:

- The Human Rights Committee recommends to the Greek government to "ensure that the length of alternative service to military service does not have a punitive character, and [to] ... consider placing the assessment of applications of conscientious objectors under the control of civilian authorities."

- In April two military courts used their discretion to decide in favour of two conscientious objectors who had previously served in the Armed Forces and developed a conscientious objection after finishing their service. According to the Greek CO law, they are not eligible for applying for conscientious objection.

War Resisters' International hopes that the international focus on Greece on International Conscientious Objectors' Day will contribute further to the improvement of the law and practice regarding conscientious objection in Greece. Only through the generous donations of our supporters are we able to do so. With your support can our actions make a difference.

Thank you very much.

Andreas Speck

Published in CO-Update, May 2005, No. 9