From APD Deutschland, December 12, 2016: Commemorating International Human Rights Day on December 10, the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) presented its annual report “Conscientious Objection in Europe 2016.”
EBCO Chairman Friedhelm Schneider, who represents the Protestant Association for Conscientious Objection and Peace (EWC) in the human rights organization, delivered the report with this assessment:
“Overall, the human rights situation of conscientious-objectors in Europe was in 2016 characterized by stagnation instead of progress.”
Schneider pointed to cases of discrimination against conscientious objectors in Europe, highlighting cases in Turkey and Greece.
He said that for over a decade, the Turkish government has disregarded a January 2006 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which deemed the incarceration and severe pubishment doled out to Turkish conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke was excessive and degrading.
Greece also was critiqued by international human rights bodies which claim the country has committed serious violations of the right to conscientious objection.
Schneider said that despite clear warnings from the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights, the Greek government remains inactive.
A positive development was noted in the 2016 release of the Ukrainian conscientious objector Ruslan Kotsaba, who had called on his fellow citizens to refuse to kill in the Ukraine conflict. An international solidarity campaign launched in support helped him leave prison after 18 months.
Another sign of progress was the recognition of the right to conscientious objection in the Kurdish-controlled Canton Cizre in northeastern Syria, an arena of struggle with IS.
Schneider said it was more important than ever that NGOs and churches remind national governments of their international responsibility to protect conscientious objectors.
APD Deutschland is the official news service of the Adventist denomination in Germany.
Adventist Today editors also contributed to this story.