Turkey

 

  Conscription:

Yes

 

  Conscientious objection:

-

 

Service

 

Military:

6

Since 2019, there is the option of paid service: if one pays around €4300, he can serve for 1 month (including only basic training).

Civilian:

-

Not available.

Minimum

 

Conscription:

20

 

Voluntary enlistment:

17

17 for the registration to the 'National Defence University'

More 

https://ebco-beoc.org/turkey

Turkey is the only member state in the Council of Europe that has not recognised the right to conscientious objection to military service, or at least indicated the intention of making alternative service available. Turkey continues to prosecute conscientious objectors and to ignore the judgements which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has pronounced since 2006 in favour of Turkish conscientious objectors, in what the Committee of Ministers has named the “Ülke group” of cases. Many different penalties are imposed on those who refuse to perform military service. As a result, conscientious objectors face ongoing arrest warrants; a life-long cycle of prosecutions and imprisonment, and a situation of “civil death” which excludes them from social, cultural and economic life.

COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS DECISION ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ÜLKE GROUP OF CASES

Pressing ahead with a former submission submitted on 07/02/2018 by EBCO and others [1] on 20/04/2020 the Association for Conscientious Objection, Freedom of Belief Initiative in Turkey, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, War Resisters’ International, European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, and Connection e.V. jointly submitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe a Rule 9.2 Submission on the implementation of the judgments under the Ülke Group of cases. [2]

14 years after the groundbreaking ECHR judgement in favour of Osman Murat Ülke (Application No. 39437/98) which to this day never has been implemented by Turkey, the Committee of Ministers’ Deputies on its 1377th meeting on 4 June 2020 urged Turkey to stop prosecuting conscientious objectors and take the necessary measures to address the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Reminding Turkey of the lack of any progress in law, in its recent decision, the Committee of Ministers asked Turkey to submit an action plan with concrete steps addressing the ECHR findings before 21st June 2021. [3]

The Ülke group of cases are a total of seven cases under the enhanced supervision of the Committee of Ministers. They pertain to violations of Article 3, the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment; Article 9, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and Article 6, the right to fair trial of the European Convention on Human Rights. They stem from the applicants’ repetitive convictions and prosecutions for having refused to carry out compulsory military service due to their religious beliefs or convictions as pacifists and conscientious objectors. The first judgment of the seven cases was Ülke v. Turkey dated 24 April 2006.

The submission by six organisations to the Committee of Ministers included recommendations to the Council of Europe and the Turkish Government. The organisations called on the Turkish Government to take legislative measures without delay; to recognize the right to conscientious objection to military service in line with international human rights standards; to set up independent and impartial decision-making bodies tasked with determining whether a conscientious objection to military service is genuinely held in a specific case; to review relevant legislation.

The Committee of Ministers have made a decision on 4th June 2020 and urged Turkey to stop prosecuting conscientious objectors and to take the necessary measures to address the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. [4]

The Committee of Ministers decision [5] asked the authorities to make sure that all the consequences of the violations have been remedied for all the applicants by 1st September 2020. The Committee of Ministers decision also stated that the Deputies “regretted that no progress has been achieved despite the authorities’ undertaking, during the Committee’s previous examinations, to move forward with legislative amendments; invited therefore the authorities to provide an action plan with concrete proposals for measures to address the Court’s findings in this group of cases before 21 June 2021”. The Committee of Ministers also “invited the authorities to provide statistical information on the number of conscientious objectors in Turkey and on administrative fines, prosecutions and convictions delivered in this connection since the Ülke judgment became final in 2006.”

The Conscientious Objection Association hasn’t been aware of any data or statistical information provided by the Turkish authorities yet.

NEWS FROM THE ASSOCIATION OF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION

Due to a news story posted on VR-DER’s official website www.vicdaniret.org, and social media posts on VR-DER accounts, a new prosecution has been started by the İstanbul Anatolian Public Prosecutor’s Office against the association. Abdülmelik Yalçın who is a member of VR-DER was called to testify in relation to the Turkish Penal Code 301 "insulting the military organization of the state". Abdülmelik Yalçın, together with VR-DER co-chair and lawyer Gökhan Soysal, attended the Public Prosecutor’s Office to testify on 13th of November 2020.

In 2019, there had been another investigation against another member because of the official website of VR-DER and the case that was filed resulted to an acquittal.

UPR: TURKEY REJECTS RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS

Turkey rejected all the recommendations about conscientious objectors submitted as part of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in 2020. [6]

Specifically, there were two recommendations concerning conscientious objectors, both made by Croatia: [7]

"45.184 Consider revising the current law according to which the right to conscientious objection to military service is a criminal act (Croatia);

45.185 Consider the introduction of civil service for conscientious objectors to military service (Croatia);"

Turkey responded to both recommendations as “noted” [8] which practically means “rejected”.

LEGAL SITUATION OF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS and SANCTIONS

According to the Military Law No. 7179 “every man who is a citizen of the Republic of Turkey is obliged to perform military service”. According to the Article 3 of the same law, the age of military service covers the period between the ages of 20-41, although in practice one keeps being liable for military service beyond the age of 41 if he hasn’t completed it or been exempted from it until this age.

There is no regulation on the right to conscientious objection in the Constitution of Turkey. The Government of Turkey insists on not recognizing conscientious objection. With an amendment in law in 2019, the period of compulsory military service is reduced to six months. The same amendment also introduced the option of “paid military service”. According to this, one can perform a one-month military service including a basic training, rather than a six month of full service, by paying a certain amount of fee. The fee for ‘paid military service’ is updated every six months. It was set to be 37.070 Turkish Liras (approximately €4350) for applications between the period July/December 2020.

Conscientious objectors are criminalised as draft evaders or deserters. In the case of an ID check by police or gendarmerie at a random check point or stop-and-search situation on the street, conscientious objectors are reported officially and ordered to contact and submit their application to military recruitment centers within 15 days. If they do not fulfill this obligation, they face an administrative monetary fine. The amount of the monetary fines varies by the period of being a draft evader/evader. If they continue to refuse to enlist despite repeated administrative fines, a criminal prosecution starts. After this point, every new administrative monetary fine means a new criminal prosecution which can lead to a prison sentence from 2 months to 3 years. To avoid arrest and detention, conscientious objectors are forced to live a clandestine life.

In addition, even if one of the criminal prosecutions leads to a conviction, this does not prevent a new one. An individual who refuses compulsory military service in Turkey can be prosecuted repeatedly and indefinitely amounting to conditions of “civil death”, as recognized by the European Court of Human Rights in 2006 (Ülke v. Turkey, application no. 39437/98).

The violations experienced by conscientious objectors in Turkey include:

- inability to vote or stand for an office in elections;

- inability to enjoy their freedom of travel;

- limited access to education;

- limited or no access to social security due to inability to be part of formal work-force in private sector, and not being able to work in state sector at all;

- confiscation of bank accounts.

ARTICLE 318: ALIENATING PEOPLE FROM MILITARY SERVICE

Article 318 of Turkish Penal Code states: “(1) Any person who encourages, or uses repetition which would cause the persons to desert or have the effect of discouraging people from performing military service, shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of six months to two years. (2) Where the act is committed through the press or broadcasting, the penalty shall be increased by one half.”

This Article is mostly used against objectors and their supporters. Declarations of objection or statements by anti-militarist or anti-war organisations come under its scope. Any statement against mandatory military service even in social media can be investigated and prosecuted under Article 318.

 

[2] Implementation of the Ülke Group of Cases against Turkey (Application No. 39437/98), 20 April 2020. Association for Conscientious Objection, Freedom of Belief Initiative in Turkey, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, War Resisters’ International, The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, and Connection e.V.. Available at: https://wri-irg.org/sites/default/files/public_files/2020-06/cm_submission_on_the_implementation_of_ulke_group_of_cases-2_0.pdf

[4] The Council of Europe urges Turkey to recognise conscientious objection, 12 June 2020. War Resisters’ International. Available at: https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2020/council-europe-urges-turkey-recognise-conscientious-objection

[5] Council of Europe, Ministers’ Deputies, Decisions CM/Del/Dec(2020)1377/H46-40, 4 June 2020, H46-40 Ülke group v. Turkey (Application n° 39437/98), Supervision of the execution of the European Court’s judgments. Available at: https://search.coe.int/cm/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=09000016809e8f6e

[6] Turkey rejects recommendations about COs in the context of Human Rights Council’s UPR. 23 October 2020. War Resisters’ International. Available at: https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2020/council-europe-urges-turkey-recognise-conscientious-objection

[7] Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Turkey. 24 March 2020. United Nations, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, A/HRC/44/14. Available at: https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/turkey/session_35_-_january_2020/report_of_the_working_group-turkey_english.pdf

[8] Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Turkey, Addendum, Views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by the State under review. 24 June 2020. United Nations, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, A/HRC/44/14/Add.1. Available at: https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/44/14/Add.1