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Interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief Addendum 1 Situation in Turkey


Practice of religion during performance of military service

40. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all conscripts are free to practice their religion provided they respect military rank and discipline. Military courts have no direct competence to issue judgements on matters relating to freedom of religion and belief. Nevertheless, if a conscript refuses to execute the orders of a superior officer, on grounds of freedom of religion and belief, military criminal law provides for trial by the military tribunals. Under current law, military service is compulsory for all males. A simple declaration of conscientious objection does not constitute a crime. On the other hand, statements that slander or denigrate the Army may be prosecuted by the military tribunals. With respect to conscientious objection, non-governmental sources will be cited (see below).

(b) Supplementary information provided by non-governmental sources

45. Legislation does not recognize the right of conscientious objection based on religion and belief. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur recalls resolution 1989/59 of 8 March 1989 of the Commission on Human Rights, which has been reaffirmed on several occasions, among others in resolution 2000/34 of 20 April 2000, in which the Commission recognized the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as laid down in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and recommended that member States with compulsory military service should, where they have not done so already, establish alternative forms of service for conscientious objectors, which should be of a non-combatant or civilian character, in the public interest and not of a punitive nature.


139. Finally, in accordance with the resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights (for example Resolution 1998/77 recognizing the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and General Commentary No. 22 (48) of 20 July 1993 of the Commission on Human Rights, and on the basis of the Turkish Constitution, which enshrines freedom of belief, the Special Rapporteur believes that regional characteristics and tensions are not sufficient to justify, in Turkey or anywhere else, a categorical rejection of conscientious objections, and recommends that legislation be adopted to guarantee the right to conscientious objections, particularly for religious beliefs.