Turkey: conference on conscientious objection to military service

On 27 and 28 January 2007, an international conference on conscientious objection took place at Bilgi university in Istanbul. The conference was organised by a small conference committee, and supported by Amnesty International Turkey, Connection e.V., European Bureau for Conscientious Objectors, Helsinki Citizens' Assembly, Human Rights Watch, Istanbul Branch Human Rights Association, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, War Resisters' International, and others.

More than 300 people participated in the two days of the conference, which opened with an overview on the experiences of conscientious objection movements, and went well beyond legal aspects of objection. It is especially noteworthy that gender aspects of militarism received special attention on the first day of the conference.

Other speakers described the international legal framework regarding the right to conscientious objection, which was clarified following the decision of the Human Rights Committee on South Korean cases above.

In the case of Osman Murat Ülke, who won his case at the European Court of Human Rights, it has to be noted that Turkey did not act after the court's decision. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which follows up on ECHR judgements, therefore noted in its meeting on 13/14 February 2007: The Committee "deplored the fact that the Turkish authorities had as yet taken no individual measure to put an end to the violation found by the Court, the applicant still being subject to an arrest warrant with a view to the execution of his sentence;

2. decided to resume consideration of this item at their 992nd meeting (3-4 April 2007) (DH), in the light of information to be provided on the individual measures, if appropriate, on the basis of a draft interim resolution to be prepared by the Secretariat;

3. invited the authorities also to provide information on the general measures taken or envisaged to remedy the shortcomings in the Turkish legislation identified by the European Court in this judgment." (CM/Del/Dec(2007)987 15 February 2007)

It will require much more pressure on Turkey to not only solve the situation of Osman Murat Ülke and many others in a similar situation of "civil death" (including Mehmet Tarhan), but for Turkey to also recognise the right to conscientious objection.