Cyprus Mail

Bill to legalise conscientious objection rejected in north (Update)

file photo soldiers in the north

A bill which would have legalised conscientious objection in the north was rejected by a majority vote in ‘parliament’ on Monday.

The bill, which had been put forward by opposition party the CTP, would have allowed Turkish Cypriot males to perform duties in civil service and other public sector organisations should they not wish to enter the military.

However, it was voted down by ‘MPs’ from the three parties of ‘government’, who pointed to military activity in the Republic as the primary reason behind their rejection of the bill

“It is not possible for us to be in a situation which opens the door to conscientious objection,” ‘MP’ Sunat Atun said, speaking on behalf of the ‘government’.

“We are currently in a state of ceasefire, and we know the priests on the other side are receiving weapons training. Everything is based on militarism and increasing military power in Southern Cyprus. They are increasing arms purchases,” he said.

He also spoke about other conflicts going on in the area, saying “there is serious tension in the situation and the region we are in. We are also in the middle of wars. There are not only troops on the British bases. Germany has troops.”

Turkish Cypriot males are required by law to complete military service, which ordinarily lasts 15 months.

The concept of conscientious objection is not currently recognised in the north’s laws, and as a result, the refusal to complete military service is a criminal act which can lead to jail time.

The rejection of the bill is bad news for conscientious objector Mustafa Hurben, whose trial is set to begin in military court on January 18.

In a statement released on Sunday evening, the CTP had pointed out that the right to conscientious objection is recognised “in many countries”, while case law from the European Court of Human Rights also recognises the right.

The ECHR states that conscientious objection “is based on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion”.

The bill stipulates that those who wish to conscientiously object to military service may instead be asked to perform duties in civil service and other public sector organisations.

In December, ‘deputy parliament speaker’ Fazilet Ozdenefe had pledged to “do her best” to legalise conscientious objection during a meeting with objector Hurben.

“It saddens me and many [other ‘MPs’] to not be able to make the necessary legislative arrangements on an issue which is considered a human right by the European Court of Human Rights and in international practice, as part of one’s freedom of religion and conscience,” she said.


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