European Court rules states must respect Conscientious Objection as a Human Right

07.07.2011 - London - Amnesty International

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Joint statement of Amnesty International, Conscience & Peace Tax International, International Commission of Jurists, Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva, and War Resisters’ International

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, in a ground-breaking judgment (issued on Thursday) in the case of Bayatyan v. Armenia (Application no. 23459/03, 1/6/2011), has ruled that states have a duty to respect individuals’ right to conscientious objection to military service as part of their obligation to respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion set out in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In the light of this judgment, the above-named organizations call on Turkey and Azerbaijan, the only two parties to the Convention who do not yet provide for conscientious objection to military service, to take immediate steps to do so.

Moreover, Armenia should amend its Alternative Service Act to ensure that it provides a genuine alternative service of a clearly civilian nature, which should be neither deterrent nor punitive in character, in line with European and international standards.

This is the first time that the right of conscientious objection to military service has been explicitly recognised under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The above-named organisations welcome this judgment in which the European Court of Human Rights has interpreted this right in line with the long-standing interpretation of the equivalent provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by the UN Human Rights Committee, the body set up under that treaty to monitor states parties’ compliance with its provisions.

The Bayatyan v Armenia case concerned a Jehovah’s Witness who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison following his refusal of military service on the grounds of conscientious objection. Amnesty International, Conscience & Peace Tax International, International Commission of Jurists, Quaker UN Office and War Resisters’ International submitted a joint third party intervention to the Grand Chamber which highlighted the UN Human Rights Committee’s long-standing position that conscientious objection to military service is protected under the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The organizations also highlighted recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and provided the Court with information about the recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

Contacts for further information:

Amnesty International: Lydia Aroyo, Press Officer Europe/Central Asia
+44 20 7413 5599, m +44 7771 796 350

Conscience & Peace Tax International: Derek Brett: dubrett@talk21.com

Quaker UN Office, Geneva: Rachel Brett: +41 22 748 48 04; m +41 79 408 5468

War Resisters’ International: Andreas Speck: +44 20 72784040; m:+44 7973 683936

Categories: Europe, Human Rights, International, Press Releases

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