Council of Europe ramps up pressure on Turkey to recognize right to conscientiously object

A report prepared by a number of civil society organizations regarding trials in Turkey prosecuting conscientious objectors to mandatory military service in the country has influenced the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers to pressure Turkey on recognizing the right to conscientious objection.

Nuray Pehlivan / DUVAR

The Council of Europe has ramped up pressure on Turkey to adopt legal regulations on the issue of conscientious objection.

In 2006, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favor of an appeal lodged by Osman Murat Ülke, a conscientious objector to Turkey's mandatory military service who had been repeatedly detained as a result. The court determined that Turkey had violated the third article of the European Convention Human Rights.

All men in Turkey must serve in the military, with a few exceptions. A sum of 37,070 TL can be paid in order to serve a three-week stint, while the normal duration of service is six months.

Cases pursued against conscientious objectors in Turkey, the only country in the Council of Europe that does not recognize that right, have been referred to by the Council's Committee of Ministers as the the “Ülke group” trials.

A number of domestic and international civil society organizations including the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, War Resisters International, and the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection collectively prepared a monitoring report on these trials, while the Committee of Ministers has called upon Turkey to recognize the right to conscientiously object.

Merve Arkun from Turkey's Conscientious Objection Association said that the report impacted the Committee of Ministers to make the decision to pressure Turkey to recognize the right. The Committee had not previously made any decisions regarding the issue since 2012.

“The Committee of Ministers, during its meeting in June, made a promising decision for the right to conscientious objection in Turkey. In some of the decisions, we were able to concretely observe the impact of the monitoring report we prepared. Some of the suggestions we submitted to the Committee appeared in the decisions taken at the meeting,” Arkun told Duvar.

The Committee decided to give Turkey until June 2021 to come up with an action plan for implementing the right to conscientiously object to military service.