12 April 2007: Day of action in support of imprisoned conscientious objector Halil Savda

Turkish/Kurdish conscientious objector Halil Savda has been severely punished for his declared conscientious objection on 15 March 2007, when he has been sentenced to 15 ½ months imprisonment on charges of desertion and disobeying orders – by the same court that is now to try him again for disobeying orders. He is likely to be sentenced to a further six months of imprisonment at the next trial session on 12 April.

War Resisters' International calls for an international day of action in solidarity with Halil Savda on the day of his trial, and likely sentencing.

- organise vigils in front of Turkish embassies or consulates (a list of all Turkish embassies (in Turkish and English) can be found at http://www.mfa.gov.tr/MFA/Ministry/TurkishRepresentations/).

- write protest letters to the Turkish authorities, and Turkish embassies.

* General Staff of the Turkish Military: Fax +90-312-4250813

* Presidency of the Turkish Republic: Fax +90-312-4271330, email cumhurbaskanligi@tccb.gov.tr

* A protest email to the Turkish President Ahmet Nezdet Secer can be sent at http://wri-irg.org/co/alerts/20070320a.html.

- organise stalls and vigils in your town/city/village, and spread information on the imprisonment of Halil Savda.

Background

Already the sentence from 15 March constitutes a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion), both of which Turkey has signed and ratified.

The new trial is not only a violation of Article 9 ECHR and Article 18 ICCPR, it also constitutes a violation of Article 14 para 7 of the ICCPR, which states that "no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country". The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made this clear in its opinion 36/1999, on the very similar case of conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke: "The Working Group is of the opinion that there is, since, after the initial conviction, the person exhibits, for reasons of conscience, a constant resolve not to obey the subsequent summons, so that there is "one and the same action entailing the same consequences and, therefore, the offence is the same and not a new one" (see Decision of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, 18 September 1999, No. 2, No. 130/95). Systematically to interpret such a refusal as being perhaps provisional (selective) would, in a country where the rule of law prevails, be tantamount to compelling someone to change his mind for fear of being deprived of his liberty if not for life, at least until the date at which citizens cease to be liable to military service."

It has to be feared that this is the beginning of a vicious cycle of military order, disobedience, arrest, and sentencing, which leads to what the European Court of Human Rights called "civil death" in its judgement from 24 January 2006 on the case of Osman Murat Ülke. The court noted: "The numerous criminal prosecutions against the applicant, the cumulative effects of the criminal convictions which resulted from them and the constant alternation between prosecutions and terms of imprisonment, together with the possibility that he would be liable to prosecution for the rest of his life, had been disproportionate to the aim of ensuring that he did his military service. They were more calculated to repressing the applicant’s intellectual personality, inspiring in him feelings of fear, anguish and vulnerability capable of humiliating and debasing him and breaking his resistance and will. The clandestine life amounting almost to “civil death” which the applicant had been compelled to adopt was incompatible with the punishment regime of a democratic society."

Exactly the same is now happening in the case of Halil Savda, on trial again on 12 April 2007.

War Resisters' International appeals to the Corlu Military Court to take international legal standards and judgements into account, and to close the case against conscientious objector Halil Savda on 12 April 2007. There is no case to answer, as his "new" act of disobedience is "one and the same action entailing the same consequences and, therefore, the offence is the same and not a new one".
More information on Halil Savda and conscientious objection in Turkey is available at http://wri-irg.org/co/turkcampaign-en.htm.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International