Greece: The time to end prosecution of conscientious objectors is now
“The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) urges the new government of Greece to finally turn the page and put a definite end to the scandalous prosecutions of conscientious objectors and the blatant violations of their human rights in Greece.
We call for the full recognition of the right to conscientious objection for conscripts, reservists and professional members of the armed forces, in line with European and international standards”, Sam Biesemans, EBCO’s Vice-President stated today from Athens, where we came in order to testify in defense of the Greek conscientious objector Dimitris K. Sotiropoulos.
Tomorrow, 16 June 2015, the case of conscientious objector Sotiropoulos will be heard before the Appeal Military Court of Athens. Sotiropoulos, 48 years old and a founding member of the Greek Association of Conscientious Objectors, has refused to enlist since 1992, declared publicly his opposition to violence and militarism, and asked to perform an equal alternative civilian service. At first instance, on 13 May 2014, and having already been exempted from conscription as a father of 3 children, he was convicted on an insubordination charge and sentenced to 10-month suspended imprisonment, 23 years after his initial insubordination.
Unfortunately Sotiropoulos is not the only conscientious objector who is under prosecution in Greece. Two more conscientious objectors will be judged this month by military courts on insubordination charges and more will follow. In addition, several conscientious objectors on ideological grounds have their applications for civilian service rejected by the Minister of Defence following negative opinions by the relevant Special Committee of the Ministry of Defence. This unacceptable practice continues and it is a vicious circle. These young persons are then called up for military service, and if they do not enlist, they are repeatedly persecuted, since insubordination is considered a permanent offence in the Greek legislation. So an endless circle of arrests and penal convictions begins, with suspended imprisonment sentences accompanied with huge administrative penalties of 6000 euros for each insubordination charge.
“It is high time for Greece to abolish the compulsory military service and fully recognise and respect the right to conscientious objection, in line with the European and international standards, without restrictions and obstacles. In any case conscientious objectors are civilians; therefore military courts should not judge their cases”, Sam Biesemans, EBCO’s Vice-President added.
EBCO press contact:
Sam Biesemans, EBCO’s Vice-President, +32 477 268 893