This edition of CO Update includes some occasions where international solidarity and international legal mechanisms are being used to support conscientious objectors. There has been an international outcry from supporters of human rights defenders as a Tajik NGO is shut down, ostensibly for administrative reasons, but allegedly as a political sanction.
Andreas and Hannah from the Right to Refuse to Kill programme spent 15 days in Colombia in November. Our visit coincided with developments on the law proposal that regulates the right to conscientious objection, and creates compulsory substitute service. It will also create a National Committee of Conscientious Objection to Military Service (Comité Nacional de Objeción de Conciencia al Servicio Militar), which will have the authority to judge applications for conscientious objection.
Taiwanese men born after 1994 will not be drafted to serve a full year starting next year as Taipei seeks to end conscription in a shift towards building a “stronger, smaller, smarter” army. Conscripted soldiers make up around 60% of Taiwan’s military.
However, they will still be enlisted for four months of training 'until deciding on whether to pursue a military career and serve the country' – our CO Update from 2010 aptly called this move 'How not to abolish conscription'. The changes will cut the army down from 270,000 to 215,000 soldiers.
The Young Lawyers Association “Amparo”, who document press-ganging in Tajikistan and has provided thousands of families pro bono legal advice has been ordered to close by the Tajik court.
The court cited a variety of technical violations of its operating license, including moving offices without duly notifying authorities, engaging in unauthorized training sessions involving high school students and operating an improperly registered website. The ruling came after the Tajik Justice Ministry filed a motion to shut down the Association.
On 17–18 October, the United Nations Human Rights Committee finalised the examination of the initial report of Turkey on the country’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Hülya Üçpınar, activist and human rights lawyer from Turkey, addressed the committee on behalf of WRI. She reported on the status of conscientious objection in Turkey, telling the committee about restrictions imposed on conscientious objectors lives – the fact they can't vote, are in constant danger of being detained by security forces, and are severely hampered in finding work.
In a further reminder of Armenia's neglect of its international obligations towards conscientious objectors, in November Armenia was fined by the European Court of Human Rights for violating the right to liberty and security of seventeen conscientious objectors who had been detained for absconding from substitute service. The Court said their right to compensation for unlawful detention had been violated.