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Osman Murat Ülke
Turkey: Legal amendments for conscientious objection?
by War Resisters International
According to an article in Today’s Zaman, some legal amendments are planned in Turkey to address the issue of conscientious objection, following the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Osman Murat Ülke in January 2006. However, these amendments are far from recognising the right to conscientious objection.
According to Today’s Zaman, those refusing to perform compulsory military service will no longer be forcibly drafted to the military while they are under detention and will be able to be defended by a lawyer while being tried. They will also be able to benefit from the Probation Law. And "In addition to the warnings of the ECtHR and the EU, the Constitutional Court last year asked the government to draft a regulation to allow conscientious objectors to serve their sentence at home under supervision. Consequently, the Justice Ministry recently decided to amend the Probation Law to allow objectors to benefit from it."
These planned amendments do not go to the root of the problem in Turkey: the non-recognition of the right to conscientious objection. These amendments only try to avoid some of the "degrading and inhuman treatment" for which Turkey was sentenced to pay compensation to Osman Murat Ülke in the ECtHR judgement, and address a comment of the ECtHR in the Ülke judgement: "The Court notes in that connection that there is no specific provision in Turkish law governing penalties for those who refuse to wear uniform on grounds of conscience or religion. It seems that the relevant applicable rules are provisions of the Military Penal Code which classify as an offence any refusal to obey the orders of a superior officer. That legal framework is evidently not sufficient to provide an appropriate means of dealing with situations arising from the refusal to perform military service on account of one’s beliefs. Because of the unsuitable nature of the general legislation applied to his situation the applicant ran, and still runs, the risk of an interminable series of prosecutions and criminal convictions." (paragraph 61)
From what is known, it seems the amendments will provide "relevant applicable rules" regarding the punishment of conscientious objectors, but not the right to conscientious objection.
Sources: Today’s Zaman: Legal amendments to be made for conscientious objectors, 8 September 2009; European Court of Human Rights: CHAMBER JUDGMENT ÜLKE v. TURKEY, 24 January 2006. Published in CO-Update, October 2009, No. 51