Use this form to send the letter below to the relevant authority (in this case, Minister of National Defence Ismet Yılmaz). You can add your own notes in a separate box after the standard text, if you wish. You must include a name, address, and email address; a copy will be sent to you with a cc to the WRI office (so we have a record of how many email letters have been sent out for this particular case).
I am concerned to hear about the detention, on 11th July, of conscientious objector Onur Erden.
After his demand for political asylum was rejected by the Republic of Cyprus, conscientious objector Onur Erden was deported back to Istanbul via Jordan on Thursday, July 11th. He was arrested after his appearance in the court and transferred to military prison in Kasimpasa Naval Base in Istanbul. On 17 July, he was transferred to the 2nd Army Corps Command Military Prison in Gelibolu, Çanakkale.
Onur Erden declared his conscientious objection in March 2011. Previously he served in the military for 3 months in 2006 after which he deserted and was imprisoned several times.
Onur Erden's conscientious objection is a human right protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Further to this, on 7 July 2011, the European Court of Human Rights, in their judgement Bayatyan v. Armenia, ruled that states have a duty to respect individuals’ right to conscientious objection to military service as part of their obligation to respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Since then, the European Court of Human Rights has consolidated its jurisprudence in judgements on Turkey (Demirtaş v. Turkey from 17 January 2012; Erçep v. Turkey from 22 November 2011; Savda v. Turkey from 12 June 2012, and Tarhan v. Turkey from 17 July 2012). According to article 90 of the Turkish constitution, European Human Rights Court rulings must to be enforced. By not respecting this article, you are breaching the Turkish constitution.
Moreover, according to international standards, a person may become a conscientious objector after joining the armed forces, whether as a conscript or as a volunteer. The general freedom to change one’s religion or belief is recognized in Article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 18(2) prohibits “coercion which would impair” the individual’s freedom to have or adopt a religion.
I therefore urge you to immediately release Onur Erden, and cease prosecutions against all conscientious objectors, in line with your international obligations.