Conscientious objection

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South Korea’s Ministry of Defense proposed a system for alternative service to the military on Dec. 28, following a historic decision by the Constitutional Court in June, which ruled that the existing law does not guarantee freedom of conscience. The court’s decision —which was a major victory for the movement to recognize conscientious objection in South Korea — has sparked a fierce debate over the issue. There have been tangible achievements, such as the Supreme Court finding a conscientious objector to be innocent for the first time ever on Nov. 1. However, the struggle over how the alternative service system will work is just beginning.

The Greek Government has announced a draft bill proposing minor changes that affects conscientious objectors. Despite the proposed minor improvements, the draft bill fails to offer much-awaited changes for conscientious objectors that ensure a non-punitive and non-discriminatory legislation and practice. Conscientious objectors in Greece reported to WRI that if the draft bill passes in parliament in its current version, it would be a missed opportunity, and it's a crucial time to pressure the Greek government to ensure a legislation that meets international standards for conscientious objectors.

In December, War Resisters' International has submitted a report to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The submission was in response to the OHCHR's request for information on different approaches and challenges with regard to application procedures for conscientious objection to military service.

In January, there were significant developments for conscientious objectors in Northern Cyprus: Conscientious objector Halil Karapasaoglu, who has repeatedly declared his refusal to perform reserve service, was put on trial and sentenced to a fine - which Halil refused to pay and was imprisoned. Meanwhile, Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus mobilised hundreds of people to support Halil - both on the streets and on social media. Halil was released following his appeal. In parallel to the public discussions on Halil's case, the government of the North Cyprus, a self-declared state recognised only by Turkey, announced a draft law recognising the right to conscientious objection.

On November 22, in Colombia, ACOOC, Justapaz, La TULPA Collective and the Anti-militarist Articulation organized a public forum to discuss the law of conscription that regulates conscientious objection in Colombia after one year of its approval. As part of the event, the organizations released a report that evaluates the implementation of the law and its impact on conscientious objectors. The experiences of three conscientious objectors were presented and strategies were presented to continue promoting conscientious objection among the youth of the country.

1st December, Saturday, is Prisoners for Peace Day. For over sixty years on this day, we've been sharing stories and contacts details of conscientious objectors who have been imprisoned for their refusal to take up arms and resist war.

In August of 2017 the law 1861 of August 4, 2017, that regulates the military recruitment in Colombia was approved. A law that recognized, for the first time, conscientious objection as a cause of exoneration from compulsory military service along with other causes that were already contemplated: being an only child, being married, being a victim of the armed conflict, among others.

At the beginning of March 2018, Ahmet Alcan declared his desertion from the Turkish army, becoming the only person to publicly announce their refusal to take part in the war in Afrin. Ahmet left the army just three days before his deployment. “Together with me two other soldiers were called up. It seems that they have to take part in the operation in Afrin.

On 20th August, Morocco’s ministerial council, chaired by King Mohammed VI, approved a draft law reintroducing compulsory military service for under 25s. If passed in parliament, both men and women aged 19 to 25 will be subject to a 12-month mandatory military service - which was abolished by the King in 2006.

Courts in Turkmenistan continue to imprison conscientious objectors. Since June, six more conscientious objectors have been imprisoned: one in June, three in July and two in August. This adds to two other conscientious objectors imprisoned in January this year.

There are now eight conscientious objectors from Turkmenistan -all Jehovah's Witnesses aged 18 to 24- known to be imprisoned from one to two years for refusing compulsory military service on religious grounds.

18-year-old Emil Mehdiyev repeatedly expressed willingness to perform a civilian alternative to compulsory military service. Instead, he was given a criminal conviction, a one-year suspended prison term, and will be under probation for one year. Seven similar criminal cases against other young men are with Prosecutor's Offices.

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