'Civilian service' eyed for conscientious objectors

'Civilian service' eyed for conscientious objectors

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Civilian service eyed for conscientious objectors

Turkey’s failure to recognize the right to conscientious objection has long been a problem for the EU membership candidate country. This right may be recognized after Turkey has created a professional army, official statements indicate. DHA photo

Despite not recognizing the right to conscientious objection, a sub-commission of Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission has agreed to offer alternative civilian service to compulsory military service in the new Constitution.

While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) agreed on introducing “civilian service” as an alternative for customary military service during a meeting on May 16, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) insisted on its proposal for granting the right to conscientious objection.

The AKP and the CHP argued that civilian service option would substitute the absence of the right to conscientious objection. Eventually, the clause concerning the civilian service alternative was drafted with the agreement of the three parties, excluding the BDP. As the BDP’s proposal for conscientious objection was not embraced by the others, it was drafted with the “red lines” of the other parties.

Turkey’s strict refusal to recognize the right to conscientious objection has long been a problem for the EU full membership candidate country.

Although the European Court of Human Rights has clearly urged Ankara to recognize this right, recent statements by governmental officials indicate that the Turkish capital will not implement the requirements of the top court’s rulings to grant this right.

According to government statements, the right to conscientious objection may apparently be recognized when Turkey creates a professional army and ends the current system of conscription.

The issue was brought onto the agenda last month by the EU’s Enlargement commissioner Stefan Füle, following the adoption of a piece of anti-terror legislation in the Turkish Parliament.

“While I understand the focus of the 4th Judicial Reform package is on compliance with European Court of Human Rights rulings, I note with regret the omission of conscientious objection in the package,” Füle said in a written statement at the time.

Full agreement on minimum wage

Also at the meeting, all four parties agreed to bring a tax exemption for minimum wage earners into the new Constitution.

Such an arrangement is expected to be an advantage for the AKP and the BDP, if the two parties agree on a draft Constitution without the consent of the two main opposition parties and take it to the people in a referendum.

The main Constitution Conciliation Commission needs unanimity in order to draft articles. When there is no unanimity, articles are drafted with the red lines of the four parties, in other words, with reservations and in parenthesis.

The sub-commission, however, is able to draft an article on which there is consent from three parties, with a note saying “partial agreement.” Still, the main Commission will have to deal with this article about the right to vote again.