European Court again obligates Turkey to protect rights of conscientious objectors
For Immediate Release
January 23, 2012
STRASBOURG, France—On January 17, 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unanimously concluded that Turkey had violated Articles 3, 9, and 6.1 of the European Convention when it convicted Feti Demirtaş, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Turkey, for his conscientious objection to military service.
Feti Demirtaş was first called up for military duty in 2005. He suffered a series of humiliating arrests, during which he was often beaten. He was also prosecuted and imprisoned numerous times, serving a total of 554 days in prison until his release in June 2007. Since Demirtaş would not compromise his Bible-based beliefs even in the face of extreme abuse, a report was prepared to classify him permanently as having an alleged mental illness as a pretense to discharge him from the military. In its judgment, the ECHR not only found that Mr. Demirtaş suffered inhumane treatment at the hands of Turkish authorities, it also found that the government’s handling of Mr. Demirtaş’ case violated his right to freedom of conscience. Further, it ruled that he should not have been tried by a military tribunal since he had never agreed to be part of the military.
On July 7, 2011, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR released a landmark decision in Bayatyan v. Armenia and, for the first time in its history, found that Article 9 of the European Convention (Freedom of conscience) protected conscientious objectors. This ruling is binding upon all member states of the Council of Europe, including Turkey. The decision in Demirtaş’ case also comes on the heels of the November 22, 2011, judgment in the case of Erçep v. Turkey, which found that Turkey had violated Articles 6 and 9 of the European Convention when it submitted Mr. Erçep to numerous prosecutions and convictions for being a conscientious objector. The recent ECHR decisions on this issue are obligating countries like Turkey to reevaluate their treatment of conscientious objectors and to adjust their legislation in line with Convention guarantees.
J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5600
Turkey: Ahmet Yorulmaz, tel. +90 535 742 63 14
Belgium: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +32 2 782 0015
Britain: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +44 208 906 2211
Legal Contact: Office of General Counsel, tel. +1 845 306 0711
Source: JW Media