Conscientious objection in Turkey: 85 penalized by administrative fines totaling 575,000 liras

Turkish authorities have imposed a fine of a total of 575,000 liras on 85 conscientious objectors over military draft evasion, according to a new report released by the Conscientious Objection Association.

A group of demonstrators hold a banner reading 'We are not fugitives, we are conscientious objectors' in this file photo.

Duvar English 

The number of Turkish citizens who have announced their intention to refuse military service is not known, but between 1989-2021, 409 individuals have informed the Association for Conscientious Objection that they have announced their conscientious objection to compulsory military service.

The total number of conscientious objectors is believed to be much higher than this figure.

A new report released by the Association for Conscientious Objection examines the cases of 85 conscientious objectors, who have been fined a total of 575,517 Turkish Liras (approx. 55,815 euros) combined together.

The report includes information and stories from conscientious objectors including antimilitarists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and those objecting based on their Islamic belief.

Turkey is the only member state in the Council of Europe that has not recognized the right to conscientious objection to military service, or at least indicated the intention of making alternative service available.

The country continues to prosecute conscientious objectors and to ignore the judgments which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has pronounced since 2006 in favor of Turkish conscientious objectors.

Conscientious objectors are still criminalized in Turkey. An arrest warrant, continuously in effect, is issued and due to this, objectors might get detained in any ID checks by police.

After the first detainment, objectors are given an administrative fine. At the same time, they receive a new call-up and are thus still held liable to military service. Once the administrative fine has become effective, every new detainment entails a new Article 63 Military Criminal Code procedure, with sentences from two months to three years or issuance of an administrative fine. 

Furthermore, facing a vicious circle of arrest, criminal proceedings and re-enlistment combined with lifelong conscription exposes them to “civilian death,” a term coined by the ECHR.

Turkish conscientious objectors have made numerous individual applications to the Constitutional Court, but the top court has so far postponed deliberation on the applications. Therefore, the only option left to objectors is to turn to international human rights protection mechanisms.

The newly released report has urged Turkey to recognize conscientious objection to military service as a constitutional right and to provide alternative service for conscientious objectors who request it.

It also urged the Constitutional Court to take into account the ECHR's judgments on this issue and to decide on numerous pending individual applications.