Turkish Court Ignores ECHR ruling, sentences conscientious objector

Mehmet Tarhan

Mehmet Tarhan

Earlier this week, a military court in Sivas convicted conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan for “failing to obey orders,” sentencing him to fifteen months in prison, which was then converted to a 9000 Lira fine.  The conviction is particularly shocking because the ECHR has issued a series of rulings against Turkey in conscientious objection cases, including one in 2012 brought by Mehmet Tarhan himself.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recognized conscientious objection as a protected right in 2011 when, in Bayatyan v Armenia, it ruled that conscientious objection was subject to Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

Amnesty International has long believed that conscientious objection is a basic right:

The right to conscientious objection to military service is not a marginal concern outside the mainstream of international human rights protection and promotion. The right to conscientious objection is a basic component of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – as articulated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

This week’s ruling flies in the face of conventions that Turkey itself is signatory to.  It must be reversed.  These prosecutions must end.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

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