Country report and updates: Cyprus

Last revision: 25 Sep 2009
25 Sep 2009

Issues



  • Cyprus still maintains conscription. The recognition of the right to conscientious
    objection does not meet international standards.

  • The right to conscientious objection is not recognised for professional soldiers, nor for
    serving conscripts.

Military recruitment


Conscription

Conscription
is enshrined in Article 129 of the 1960 Constitution, according to
which "(1) The Republic shall have an army of two thousand
men of whom sixty per cent shall be Greeks and forty per cent shall
be Turks. (2) Compulsory military service shall not be instituted
except by common agreement of the President and the Vice-President of
the Republic
"1.

Conscription
is regulated by the National Guard Law of 1964. Presently,
conscription service lasts for 25 months, based on a decision of the
Council of Ministers No.57068/8 of January 20032.
On 17 December 2008, the Council of Ministers decided to reduce the
length of military service to 24 months3.

According
to the law, all male Cypriots are obliged to perform military service
from 18 years until 50 years.

Those
who belong to the Maronite, Armenian and Latin Communities were in
the past exempted from their service in the National Guard, unless
they declared that they wished to enlist in the National Guard
(Voluntary Enlistment)4.
However, an amendment to the National Guard Law abolished this
exemption, and from 1 January 2008 on members of those communities
are also being conscripted5.

The enlistment of conscripts is initiated by a decision of the Council of
Ministers and is implemented in two intakes in the months of January
and July of each year.

Professional soldiers

All Cypriot citizens – men and women – can join the National Guard
voluntarily, initially on a three year contract, which can be
extended for further three year terms, depending
on the needs of the National Guard6.

Conscientious objection

Conscientious objection for conscripts

In 1992, provisions for conscientious objection were included in Section 5 of the National
Guard Law (Law 2/1992). There is no separate law on conscientious
objection. The National Guard Law was last amended by law No
61(1)/2008 from 18 July 2008, which especially effected the right to
conscientious objection.

Although Cyprus joined the Council of Europe in 1961, it did not introduce legal provisions for
conscientious objection for several decades. The Cypriot government
has always defended its repressive position towards conscientious
objectors by referring to the Turkish occupation of the northern part
of the island.

The right to conscientious objection is, in fact, enshrined in the Constitution. According to Article 10:
"No person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory
labour" but this shall not include "any service of a
military character if imposed or, in case of conscientious objectors,
subject to their recognition by a law, service exacted instead of
compulsory military service
"7.

According to article 5A, “(1) Those
conscripts, who for reasons of conscience refuse to fulfil the
obligation to military service invoking their religious or
ideological convictions, can be recognised as conscientious
objectors.

(2)
The reasons of conscience raised must be derived from a general
perception of life, based on conscientious religious, philosophical
or moral convictions, which are inviolably implemented by the person
and are expressed by holding a respective attitude
8.

Paragraph
3 excludes certain categories of persons from applying for
conscientious objection, e.g. those holding a firearm license or
those with convictions or pending trials for certain crimes related
to violence and firearms.

The
application for conscientious objection, together with the required
supporting documents, is submitted to the competent Recruitment
Office, and the decision is taken by the Minister of Defence,
following a procedure outlined in the law9.
This includes a Special Committee appointed by the Minister of
Defence, which consists of 5 members – two “high officers of the
Force”, a law officer, and two university professors in philosophy,
social or political sciences, or psychology10.
The Special Committee might call the applicant for interview, but can
also decide without interview.

Substitute service

Article
5B of the National Guard Law sets out a formula for calculating the
length of substitute service, based on the length of military
service. For conscientious objectors performing substitute service,
service will be nine months longer if the military service would have
been 18 months, and 8 months longer if military service would have
been 12 month or more, but less than 18 months.

In
case of “special military service”, which according to article 5Γ
para 2 is unarmed service in the military, the service is 5 or 4
months longer, depending on the length of normal
military service.

In
both cases reservist obligation equal to the ones for conscripts
apply, according to article 5I of the National Guard Law.

Substitute
service is performed in posts of the public domain and consists of
serving in services of public utilities or undertaking public duties
within the field social care and environmental protection.

During
wartime or time of mobilisation, provisions for substitute can be
suspended by a decision of the Ministry of Defence (National Guard
Law, Article 5IΓ).
COs would then be incorporated into unarmed military service within
the armed forces11.

Practice

It
is not clear how far the application procedure functions in practice
and how many CO applications have been made. According to the
Minister of Defence in 2001, there are approx. 10 COs per year12.
Until 1992 COs were only allowed to do an unarmed military service
within the armed forces. During the 1980s and 1990s many COs were
imprisoned because they refused to perform unarmed military service.
They could be sentenced to between two and fifteen months'
imprisonment. Upon release, they could be called up again and, if
they continued to refuse service, they were sentenced again13.

All
known cases of COs are members of religious denominations who forbid
their members to bear arms, in particular Jehovah's Witnesses. Since
1997 Jehovah's Witnesses have apparently not been called up for
service, pending the introduction of a substitute service outside the
armed forces. In 2001 the Ministry of Defence announced that it would
start calling up COs for 'unarmed military service outside the armed
forces'. According to the Ministry of Defence, COs who had not been
called up during previous years were to be called up as well.
According to the Ministry, a total number of 300 COs were to be
called up for service14.
However, it is not known if these 300 COs have been called up in
practice, nor is it known for what kind of service they have been
called up.

In
2002, the European Committee of Social Rights judged that the
length of 'unarmed military service outside the armed forces', being
more than one and a half times the length of military service, is a
violation of Article 1 paragraph 2 of the European Social Charter.
According to the Committee, the length of substitute service is a
violation of "the right of the worker to earn his living in
an occupation freely entered upon
"15.
Nevertheless, the Cypriot government has not shown any intention of
reducing the length of 'unarmed military service outside the armed
forces'. In November 2002, there were five trials against five
reservists who refused to participate in reservist military exercises
and claimed their right to conscientious objection. The Ministry of
Defence rejected their CO applications because the National Guard Law
does not allow reservists to apply for CO status. Two of the COs on
trial had actually been tried in the past for refusing military
service. In November 2002, their cases were suspended pending a
revision of the National Guard Law16.
So far, the National Guard Law has not been revised. Pending a
revision of the law, the legal position of reservist COs remains
unclear.

Most
COs are members of the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is not known how CO
applications that are made on non-religious grounds would be treated
by the authorities, although the National Guard Law does not
specifically restrict the right to conscientious objection to
religious grounds.

Conscientious objection for professional soldiers

The Republic of Cyprus does not recognise the right to conscientious objection for serving
conscripts, nor for professional soldiers who joined the National
Guard voluntarily.

The regulations for leaving the
National Guard prematurely are presently not known.

Draft evasion and desertion

The penalties for draft evasion and
desertion are set out in the National Guard Law. However, the exact
provisions are presently unknown.

A reservist omitting or neglecting
to conform without a reasonable excuse to any call up order or not
turning up to the fixed dates defined in the order, the proof burden
is at the expense of the interested party. The reservist is guilty of
a tort (desertion) and is liable to imprisonment not exceeding the
two (2) years or a money penalty not exceeding five hundred (500) CP
or to both sentences included17.

No information on practice is available.

Turkish Occupied Territories

Since the Turkish army invaded the northern part of Cyprus in 1974, the northern part of Cyprus is ruled by a Turkish Cypriot administration. In 1983, it proclaimed 'The
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' (TRNC). The entity has not been
recognised by any country except Turkey.

TRNC has its own armed forces and conscription system. Conscription is included in Article 74 of the Constitution, which states: "National service in the armed
forces shall be the right and sacred duty of every citizen
".
It is further regulated by the 2000 Military Service Law (59/2000)18.
All men between the ages of 19 and 30 are liable for military
service. The length of military service is 15 months. A reduced term
of service is possible for those who are considered as Turkish
Cypriot citizens and who reside abroad19.

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognised. In 1993, there was one known case of a conscientious objector. He was sentenced to 39 months' imprisonment,
but he was released early20.
Although there are no known recent cases of COs, a new initiative for
the right to conscientious objection has been founded in autumn
200721.

Notes


1Constituion
of the Republic of Cyprus, 1960,
http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/cy00000_.html,
accessed 9 April 2008




2Ministry
of Defence of the Republic of Cyprus: Conscription service.
http://www.mod.gov.cy/mod/mod.nsf/dmlservice_en/dmlservice_en?OpenDocument,
accessed 09 April 2008




3European
Bureau for Conscientious Objection: Conscientious Objection in
Europe during 2008, Report to the Committee on Civil Liberties,
Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament, 22 September
2009; Cyprus military service reduced …, International
Coordinating Committee "Justice For Cyprus", 18 December
2008, http://news.pseka.net/index.php?module=article&id=9473,
accessed 25 September 2009




4CyprusNet.com:
Cyprus National Guard,
http://www.cyprusnet.com/content.php?article_id=2810&subject=standalone,
accessed 9 April 2008




5Embassy
of the Republic of Cyprus in The Hague: Cabinet proposes amendment
to National Guard law, 20 June 2007,
http://www.mfa.gov.cy/mfa/embassies/hagueembassy.nsf/All/FC9C730353591BE2C125730900489A84?OpenDocument,
accessed 9 April 2008; Cyprus Mail: Minorities conscripted for the
first time, 11 January 2008,
http://www.cyprus-mail.com/news/main.php?id=36940&archive=1,
accessed 9 April 2009




6CyprusNet.com:
Cyprus National Guard,
http://www.cyprusnet.com/content.php?article_id=2810&subject=standalone,
accessed 9 April 2008




7Constitution
of the Republic of Cyprus, 1960,
http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/cy00000_.html,
accessed 9 April 2008




8European
Bureau for Conscientious Objection: Conscientious Objection in
Europe during 2008, Report to the Committee on Civil Liberties,
Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament, 22 September
2009




9Alexia
Tsouni: Response to first draft of report, Email, 9 April 2008




10National
Guard Law, article 5Z, quoted after: European Bureau for
Conscientious Objection: Conscientious Objection in Europe during
2008, Report to the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home
Affairs of the European Parliament, 22 September 2009




11National
Guard Law, Article 5IΓ,
according to European Bureau for Conscientious Objection:
Conscientious Objection in Europe during 2008, Report to the
Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the
European Parliament, 22 September 2009




12Defence
Minister Socratis Hasikos, quoted in: 'Cyprus gets tough on
conscientious objectors', Reuters, 28 June 2001.




13Exercise
of the right of conscientious objection to military service in
Council of Europe member states, Report Committee on Legal Affairs
and Human Rights, Doc. 8809 (Revised), 4 May 2001.




14'Defence
Ministry to call up conscientious objectors', www.cyprus-mail.com,
29 September 2001; 'Government bows on conscientious objectors',
www.cyprus-mail.com, 19 July 1998.




15Council
of Europe, European Committee of Social Rights, Conclusions XVI -
Vol. 1, November 2002.




16Amnesty
International (EUR 17/001/2002). US State Department Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: Country Report on Human Rights
Practices 2003.





18Extracts
of the law on military service of the TRNC,
http://www.ebco-beoc.org/northern_cyprus.htm,
accessed 9 April 2008




19Coalition
to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers: Child Soldiers Global Report 2004




20War
Resisters' International: Refusing to bear arms - A world survey on
conscription and conscientious objection to military service, 1998.




21Cyprus
Mail: Turkish Cypriots dare to oppose the ‘military myth’, 9
December 2007,
http://www.cyprus-mail.com/news/main.php?id=36427&archive=1,
accessed 9 April 2008


Recent stories on conscientious objection: Cyprus

30 Mar 2016

Conscientious objector groups from the eastern Mediterranean region have recently issued a statement on the ongoing military crisis in their region. Declaring their solidarity with refugees escaping from war and repression, they made a call to the international community to pursue peaceful solutions, rather than militarised ones, for the ongoing violence in the region. “The world's reaction to the current regional violence,” the statement declares, “should be building societies, assisting refugees, and mediating between fighting parties, not selling arms, bombings and providing military assistance.”

Read more...

08 Mar 2016

We are conscientious objectors from all around the eastern Mediterranean region. Our region has suffered for so long from oppression, injustice, militarisation, military occupations and wars, as well as poverty, illiteracy, hunger and lack of social infrastructure. In this difficult period, when our region seems to fall even more into the chaos of war, we raise a common voice for peace and against militarisation.

We refuse to allow this cycle of violence, initiated by oppressive states and economic interests, to continue; we refuse to be a part of it; we refuse to be enemies with people who just happen to be of a different nationality or religion; we will not be dragged into their wars and armies leading to death and destruction in the region.

10 Dec 2014

Conscientious objector Haluk Selam Tufanlı has been imprisoned in northern Cyprus for refusing to undertake reserve military service. International actions were held on Tuesday 9th December 2014, in Athens, Istanbul, Nicossia and London.

----------------------------------------

You can also protest in writing to the authorities in Northern Cyprus. Find all the details here (including an email alert): NORTHERN CYPRUS: Haluk Selam Tufanlı imprisoned

11 Apr 2014

Following a meeting in Cyprus of conscientious objector and war refuser movements in the Eastern Mediterranean region at the end of January, when CO in Cyprus Murat Kanatlı (and co-organiser of the meeting in Nicosia) was imprisoned for ten days in February, solidarity actions took place in Turkey, Greece and Israel (by Druze Palestinian objectors). In Athens, activists were temporarily detained for their protest at the Turkish embassy. Watch a video of activists in Istanbul here.

Read more...

18 Oct 2013

The case of Murat Kanatli, a CO in Cyprus who declared his conscientious objection in 2009 and has since refused each year to participate in the annual compulsory military exercises in the northern part of Cyprus, has been heard in the Constitutional Court.

Although the full text of the ruling has not yet been published, it appears that the Court has ruled that the unavailability of a substitute to military service constitutes an interference with the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion safeguarded in the Article 23 of the Constitution, and that the duty is upon the legislator to provide in laws and regulations for alternative service to military service. However, the Court went on to state that it does not constitute a conflict with the Constitution.

23 Apr 2013

The UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, has highlighted issues with conscientious objection to military service in the Republic of Cyprus and the northern Turkish-administered region.

In the south, substitute service for conscientious objectors is between three and five months longer than military service. According to international standards, substitute service required of conscientious objectors in lieu of compulsory military service must be compatible not be punitive in nature (UN Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/77, OP4.) - this includes the duration of substitute service.

In the north – the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – the right to conscientious objection is not legally recognised.

25 Feb 2013

Human Rights Council, Twenty-second session, Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt: Addendum - Mission to Cyprus

A/HRC/22/51/Add.1

Find the full report on the website of the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights here.

06 Jul 2011

On 14 June 2011, two conscientious objectors of the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus held a press conference in front of the Turkish Military Court in Nicosia. The reason for this was the beginning of the trial of Murat Kanatli, who has been refusing his reserve duty since 2009.

20 Apr 2009

Executive summary

CPTI (Conscience and Peace Tax International) is disturbed that the
provisions concerning conscientious objection to military service in
Cyprus fall short of the established international standards,
particularly as expounded in General Comment 22 of the Human Rights
Committee and in Resolution 1998/77 and subsequent resolutions of
the Commission on Human Rights.

Particular aspects of concern are:


  • that the relevant arrangements are not under civilian control

  • that the stipulated duration of alternative service for consci