Turkey: Increased pressure on conscientious objection

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Turkey has recently increased the pressure on conscientious objectors. As reported in a co-alert on 1 April, conscientious objector Enver Aydemir has been sentenced to ten months imprisonment on 30 March, on charges of desertion. Although he was released from prison after the trial, as he had spent sufficient time in pre-trial detention, he is now back at Eskisehir military prison, according to a report in Bianet. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle of sentence for disobedience, imprisonment, return to 'his' military unit, a new order which will be disobeyed, and reimprisonment.

The harsh sentence of conscientious objector Enver Aydemir is in line with other recent developments in Turkey, which make the situation of declared and undeclared conscientious objectors worse.

While in July 2008, following the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke, the Turkish Ministry of Judge passed a new regulation which said that draft evaders should no longer be recorded in the information system of the police, and so would not fear arrest at frequent police checkpoints, this now seems to have been reversed. This means conscientious objectors, who are legally either considered as draft evaders or deserters, are under threat of being arrested during any police check of identity - as happened to Enver Aydemir when he got arrested on 24 December 2009.

In its judgement in the case of Turkish conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke from January 2006, the European Court of Human Rights said that "the numerous criminal prosecutions against the applicant, the cumulative effects of the criminal convictions which resulted from them and the constant alternation between prosecutions and terms of imprisonment, together with the possibility that he would be liable to prosecution for the rest of his life, had been disproportionate to the aim of ensuring that he did his military service. They were more calculated to repressing the applicant’s intellectual personality, inspiring in him feelings of fear, anguish and vulnerability capable of humiliating and debasing him and breaking his resistance and will. The clandestine life amounting almost to “civil death” which the applicant had been compelled to adopt was incompatible with the punishment regime of a democratic society." It consequently ruled that "the acts concerned constituted degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3" (see CO-Update No 17, February 2006).

Not only does Turkey seem to go down the same route again in the case of Enver Aydemir, it also seems that after some relaxation period, conscientious objectors might again face "civil death" in their every day lives, even without being arrested.

Sources: Hurriyet Daily News: Turkish conscientious objector sent back to military, 31 March 2010; Bianet.org: Conscientious Objector in Jail, his Supporters on Trial, 5 April 2010; European Bureau for Conscientious Objection: The Right to Refuse to Kill, autumn 2008