Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir
MISSION TO AZERBAIJAN*
E. Conscientious objection
62. Before and during her visit to Azerbaijan, the Special Rapporteur received a number of reports related to the difficulties faced by conscientious objectors. In most cases the alleged victims are members of the Jehovah’s Witness community who have refused to perform military service due to their religious convictions.
63. The Special Rapporteur is aware of the commitment made by Azerbaijan when it became a member of the Council of Europe and notes that there have been some proposals for the establishment of alternative service. Moreover, she notes that, according to article 76the Constitution, “if serving in the armed forces runs counter to a person’s convictions then active military service can be replaced by an alternative service in the cases specified by the law”.
64. However, currently in Azerbaijan, in particular with a view to the situation with Armenia, there does not seem to be the political will to accept the principle of an alternative service. This principle is vigorously opposed by official governmental bodies that organize military service.
65. The position of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan, is that since there is no law on alternative service there is no right to conscientious objection, a position that may be disputed in international law.
66. The Special Rapporteur had already addressed cases of conscientious objection in her previous communication report to the Commission on Human Rights (see E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.1, paragraphs 12 to 26).
101. Regarding the right to conscientious objection, the Special Rapporteur urges the Government to honour its commitment made before the Council of Europe and to adopt legislation on alternative service in pursuance to the provisions of its own Constitution, which guarantees such a right.