Friday, February 6, 2009

Conscientious Objector Status on EU Agenda

From Bianet:
The European Commission has announced that EU accession negotiations would also involve a debate on the right to conscientious objection and the right to choose social service instead of military service.

Following the questions of Erik Meijer, MEP of the Dutch Socialist party, Olli Rehn, member of the European Commission responsible for Enlargement, said that these issues would be discussed under Chapter 23, “Judiciary and Fundamental Rights”, in accession negotiations.

Rehn emphasised that those refusing to use arms for religious or conscientious reasons were punished repeatedly. The EU has voiced its concern over this issue in its progress reports and in meetings with Turkish officials.

Rehn pointed out that the form of military service in the EU varied from country to country; the Copenhagen Criteria did not touch on this issue, nor is there any EU legislation on it.

Meijer said that males of Turkish origin with a second passport from an EU member state were obliged to do military service in Turkey. He added that Turkey had not signed the 1963 Convention on the Reduction of Cases of Multiple Nationality and Military Obligations in Cases of Multiple Nationality

According to this convention, persons with dual nationality can only be called on to do military service until the age of 38. If they have worked abroad for three years or more, they can pay to be exempt from military service. Not doing one’s military service is a ground for denaturalising someone. On the other hand, doing one’s military service in countries such as Germany, Denmark, France or Israel means that a second military service does not have to be carried out in Turkey.

Meijer asked whether the obligatory and disciplinarian military service in Turkey was making integration of Turks in the EU more difficult. Finally, he asked, “Do you realise that the money payed for military service exemption is probably being used for operations against the Kurdish-majority population in the Southeast?”
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have criticized Turkey's failure to acknowledge the rights to conscientious objection, as well as numerous human rights groups inside Turkey. Service is mandatory for all male Turkish citizens for a term that can range from six months (for those with university degrees) to fifteen months. Partly because conscription affects almost everyone in Turkish society, and because service has become increasingly dangerous, military service is an extremely sensitive issue of which to speak. See my post from June 1 and Mustafa Akyol's analysis of pacifism as an imagined threat to the Turkish Republic. Conscientious objectors like Doğan Özkan are certainly not popular figures who endear themselves to the majority of the Turkish public.

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