New platform for conscientious objection launched in Turkey

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On 21 October, 15 Turkish NGOs and political parties launched a new Conscientious Objection Platform to defend the human right to conscientious objection. Spokesman for the platform is Halil Savda, a conscientious objector whose trial for refusing to perform military service is still going on.

During the inaugural press conference at the office of the İnsan Hakları Derneği (Human Rights Association - IHD) in Istanbul, Halil Savda (pictured right) explained the aims of the new platform:

  • The lifting of legislation that restricts anti-militarism and defines it as a punishable offence of "discouraging the people from military service". Inclusive of the abolishment of laws under which conscientious objectors can be prosecuted for "insistence of disobeying orders" and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, military criminal law articles 87 and 88.
  • To be in solidarity with journalists and writers who have been prosecuted for articled on conscientious objection or militarism.
  • To challenge military judiciary which the soldiers themselves do not deserve and to work towards a unified single judiciary with military justice being abolished.
  • To support and attempt to unify under its own framework total objectors who also refuse substitute service.
  • To be in solidarity with those who have refused to surrender for compulsory military service and consequently been expelled from Turkish citizenship. To work towards reinstating their rights.
  • One of the primary targets of the platform, however, is to unify all efforts and activities in the fields of conscientious objection which, previously, were more spontaneous and disorganised.

According to media reports, the newly-formed platform does not only aim to work for legislative changes which would recognise the right to conscientious objection, but also aims to create a communication network between and for conscientious objectors.

The formation of the platform follows a decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in January, and a renewed debate about conscientious objection in Turkey. In September, the European Parliament voted in favour of the right to conscientious objection in Turkey, and "remind[ed] Turkey that the right to conscientious objection is recognized in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights".

However, on 10 October, the Sivas Military Court finally ruled in the case of conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan, and sentenced him to a total of 25 months in prison (co-alert, 17/10/06). Mehmet Tarhan's lawyer Suna Coskun immediately appealed against this sentence.

In addition, there are two more conscientious objection cases pending:

  • The case of conscientious objector Mehmet Bal is still ongoing, with the next hearing scheduled for 8 March 2007.
  • The case of conscientious objector Halil Savda, which had been overruled by the Military Appeals Court in Ankara. The next hearing is scheduled for 7 December 2006.
Source: BIA News Center, 27 October 2006