The UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, has highlighted issues with conscientious objection to military service in the Republic of Cyprus and the northern Turkish-administered region.
In the south, substitute service for conscientious objectors is between three and five months longer than military service. According to international standards, substitute service required of conscientious objectors in lieu of compulsory military service must be compatible not be punitive in nature (UN Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/77, OP4.) – this includes the duration of substitute service.
In the north – the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – the right to conscientious objection is not legally recognised.
In the report, Heiner reiterated that a right to conscientious objection can be derived from article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The report recommended that the right to conscientious objection to military service be recognized. Conscientious objectors should have the option to perform alternative civilian service which should be compatible with their reasons for conscientious objection and have no punitive effects.
Sources: WRI’s country report on Cyprus, Cyprus, Cyprus; Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, 24 December 2012.
(CO UPDATE No 78 / March-April 2013)