Top court ruling may replace conscientious objectors' prison sentences with community service

Top court ruling may replace conscientious objectors' prison sentences with community service

ANKARA - Hürriyet
Prison sentences issued to conscientious objectors could be replaced with community service after the Constitutional Court annuled a clause preventing the application of judicial supervision sentences in military courts, daily Hürriyet reported May 25.

The Constitutional Court ruled that the law excluding military offenses from judicial supervision provisions due to the duality of the Turkish legal system, which separates the military and civil judiciary bodies, violated the equality principle guaranteed by the Constitution.

With the ruling, military judges will now have the alternative of not arresting soldiers doing their military service who transgress the military penal law, including conscientious objectors.

Former General Staff Military Court Chief Magistrate Mehmet Sever emphasized that it was not possible for judges to release an offender under judicial supervision. "From now on, if a soldier deserts or does not obey to a command, we will be able to release him with judicial supervision provisions, instead of arresting him," Sever said.

'It does not solve conscientious objectors' problem'

However, outspoken conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan said the changes were did not solve the core problem for conscientious objectors as long as the obligation of doing military service was not abrogated. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that an alternative civilian service should be implemented, said Tarhan, adding that special provisions have to be adopted for those who declare themselves conscientious objectors. "This sort of news aims to mislead [the Council of Ministers of the EU]. What the European Court of Human Rights asks is clear: The recognition of conscientious objection as a right so that the unjust treatment of the victims is resolved," he said. Tarhan also added that the risk of arrest of conscientious objectors will still remain.

Turkish Parliament's charter panel is working on a civilian alternative to compulsory military service. All four parties have reportedly agreed on introducing "civilian service" but only the Kurdish issue-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) insisted on granting the right to conscientious objection.