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Israel: Human Rights Committee raises issue of conscientious objection

During its 99th session, the Human Rights Committee also examined the periodic report of Israel. Again, also the issue of conscientious objection came up. The Israeli delegation said that in the matter of conscientious objections, it did not have the statistics available at hand on the number of cases approved. The burden of proof was on the objector, but it was difficult to say what the burden of proof was because it was hard to determine what was in a person’s heart and mind and whether they were lying. Conscientious objectors were not subject to punishment, but if someone’s application was rejected and they were told to report to duty and they did not, they would be subject to punishment just like any other soldier not upholding their duties.

In its Concluding Observations, the Committee wrote:
"19. The Committee notes that certain exemptions from obligatory military service have been granted on the grounds of conscientious objection. It is concerned at the independence of the “Committee for Granting Exemptions from Defence Service for Reasons of Conscience”, which is composed, with the exception of one civilian, of officials of the armed forces. It notes that persons, whose conscientious objection was not accepted by the Committee, may be repeatedly imprisoned for their refusal to serve in the armed forces (arts. 14 and 18).

The “Committee for Granting Exemptions from Defence Service for Reasons of Conscience” should be made fully independent, persons submitting applications on the grounds of conscientious objections should be heard and have the right to appeal the Committee’s decision. Repeated imprisonment for refusal to serve in the armed forces may constitute a violation of the principle of ne bis in idem, and should therefore be ceased."

Sources: Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights: Human Rights Committee considers report of Israel, 14 July 2010; Human Rights Committee: Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant. Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee - Israel, CCPR/C/ISR/CO/3, 29 July 2010