Welcome to No 35 of co-update, our monthly e-newsletter on conscientious objection and military recruitment.
We start this newsletter with some good news - another legal victory for conscientious objectors in Turkey. However, this good news is also bad news, as it shows the huge gap between how it should be in Turkey - legally - and the practice "on the ground". Even with the backing of international institutions and international courts, the real battle about the right to conscientious objection is about the practice, and how this right is being implemented.
Turkish conscientious objectors won another victory at the European Court of Human Rights. On 8 January 2008, the Strasbourg court awarded Sanar Yurdatapan, spokesperson for the Initiative Freedom of Thought, €2,000 in damages and €1,500 in legal fees. Yurdatapan had been sentenced to two months imprisonment for a statement in support of conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke.
The case goes back to 1999. On 23 July 1999 Sanar Yurdatapan distributed a leaflet entitled “Freedom of Thought - No. 38” in front of the Istanbul State Security Court Building.
India's chief of the army Kapoor hinted on 14 January 2008 on the possibilty of conscription to solve the shortage of officers in the Indian army. He said: "If things don't improve, the government may have to take a view on it." However, he also said that "we have not come to that stage yet".
According to official figures, the Indian army is facing a shortage of 11,238 officers, against a sanctioned strength of 46,615 officers - a staggering 25% shortfall. And it's not the army alone that is confronted with a dearth of officer corps.
Military recruitment is not always used for entirely military purposes. Frequently, authorities use military recruitment as a tool to silence opposition activists, as recently happened in Belarus.
Dzmitry Zhaleznichenka, a member of the Belarusian Popular Front, was expelled from the university on January 22, thus becoming eligible for active military service. He was called up for military service when he still was a student and he was shown the expulsion order by the university's representative only at the military recruitment office.
According to a report by Forum-18 News agency, Azerbaijan is still not implementing its commitment to the Council of Europe to legislate for conscientious objection. Samir Huseynov, a 22-years old Jehovah's Witness, is still imprisoned for his conscientious objection to military service.
Huseynov's prosecution and the failure to introduce alternative non-military service violate Azerbaijan's specific commitment to the Council of Europe.