Press statement of Turkish conscientious objectors and antimilitarists

Dear Press Representatives,

We, conscientious objectors and antimilitarists of Turkey who oppose compulsory military service based on various motivations as beliefs, political and conscientious convictions held a meeting in Istanbul on 25-26 February 2012 with the participation of representatives from the Quaker United Nations Office, Amnesty International, the War Resisters’ International and Connection e.V.
In this meeting we discussed the problems and difficulties in Turkey in regards to the enjoyment of the right to conscientious objection. We evaluated the prospective possibilities for the legalization of this right in regards to recent developments such as ECtHR rulings and the preparation of a new constitution.

As is already well known, conscientious objection is a legitimate use of “freedom of thought, belief and conscience”, which is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, art. 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights and art. 24/25 of the Turkish constitution.

However, Turkey is the only country among the 47 European Council member states which still does not recognize conscientious objection as a right for its citizens.

We therefore once again stress that the right to conscientious objection has to be a part of the new constitution and a law to implement it has to be adopted immediately.

For many years now Turkey suffers from a war related to the Kurdish question which has led to the death of more than 40 thousand people and many human rights violations as political killings, missing persons and torture. The only way out of this war is a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. We see militarism as the main obstacle for a free and peaceful coexistence and call everybody to resist against it.

One of those who unwaveringly continues to resist militarism is Halil Savda and he is still imprisoned because of a five months sentence based on art. 318 of the Turkish Penal Code, “alienation of the people from the army”. Halil Savda made a press statement on August 1, 2006 in front of the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul to support the Israeli conscientious objectors who opposed the occupation of Lebanon, saying “yes, I repeat my call to you, not to go to the army… I clearly underline that all armed organizations and all wars are evil and dirty, without exceptions and differentiations between justified and unjustified.

We once again repeat what our friend Halil Savda has said and demand his immediate release.
Art. 318 of the TPC is one of many laws which limit the freedom of speech in Turkey. This instrument of oppression against antimilitarists and conscientious objectors has to be annulled.

Istanbul, 27/02/2012