English  |  Espa˝ol  |  Franšais  |    |    | 
 
 
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

k) Conscientious objection

Human Rights Committee general comment 22

Para . 11 : "Many individuals have claimed the right to refuse to perform military service (conscientious objection) on the basis that such right derives from their freedoms under article 18. In response to such claims, a growing number of States have in their laws exempted from compulsory military service citizens who genuinely hold religious or other beliefs that forbid the performance of military service and replaced it with alternative national service. The Covenant does not explicitly refer to a right to conscientious objection, but the Committee believes that such a right can be derived from article 18, inasmuch as the obligation to use lethal force may seriously conflict with the freedom of conscience and the right to manifest one's religion or belief. When this right is recognized by law or practice, there shall be no differentiation among conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs; likewise, there shall be no discrimination against conscientious objectors because they have failed to perform military service. The Committee invites States parties to report on the conditions under which persons can be exempted from military service on the basis of their rights under article 18 and on the nature and length of alternative national service."

[Go back to the Framework for communications]

Excerpts of relevant paragraphs of 25 years mandate reporting practice (1986-2011)

E/CN.4/1992/52, para. 185:

"The Special Rapporteur has dealt with several cases of conscientious objection in the exercise of his mandate, in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration. He felt that it would be appropriate to establish a set of criteria regarding this issue. The responses to the questionnaire provided additional insight which helped him to formulate his views on the matter more precisely. Conscientious objectors should be exempted from combat but could be required to perform comparable alternative service of various kinds, which should be compatible with their reasons for conscientious objection, should such service exist in their country. To avoid opportunism, it would be acceptable if this service were at least as onerous as military service, but not so onerous as to constitute a punishment for the objector. They could also be asked to perform alternative service useful to the public interest, which may be aimed at social improvement, development or promotion of international peace and understanding. Conscientious objectors should be given full information about their rights and responsibilities and about the procedures to be followed when seeking recognition as conscientious objectors, bearing in mind that application for the status of conscientious objector has to be made within a specific time frame. The decision concerning their status should be made, when possible, by an impartial tribunal set up for that purpose or a by regular civilian court, with the application of all the legal safeguards provided for in international human rights instruments. There should always be a right to appeal to an independent, civilian judicial body. The decision-making body should be entirely separate from the military authorities and the conscientious objector should be granted a hearing, and be entitled to legal representation and to call relevant witnesses."

A/51/542/Add.1, para. 40 (country visit to Greece):

"40. The Special Rapporteur draws attention to resolution 1989/59 of 8 March 1989 of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations, reaffirmed inter alia in 1991 (resolution 1991/65 of 6 March 1991) and in 1993 (resolution 1993/84 of 10 March 1993), which recognizes "the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as laid down in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" (para. 1) and which recommends to Member States "with a system of compulsory military service, where such provision has not already been made, that they introduce for conscientious objectors various forms of alternative service" (para. 3) which "should be in principle of a non-combatant or civilian character, in the public interest and not of a punitive nature" (para. 4)."

A/52/477, paras. 77-78:

"3. The right of conscientious objection

77. With regard to the third category of violations, the Special Rapporteur wishes to stress that the right of conscientious objection is a right which is closely linked with freedom of religion.

78. The Special Rapporteur considers it necessary to remind States of Commission on Human Rights resolution 1989/59, reaffirmed several times, which recognizes the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as laid down in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Commission therefore recommends to States with a system of compulsory military service, where such provision has not already been made, that they introduce for conscientious objectors various forms of alternative service which should be in principle of a non-combatant or civilian character, in the public interest and not of a punitive nature. In its resolution 1984/93 on conscientious objection to military service, the Commission on Human Rights also called for minimum guarantees to ensure that conscientious objection status can be applied for at any time."

A/55/280/Add.1, para. 139 (country visit to Turkey)

"139. Finally, in accordance with the resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights (for example Resolution 1998/77 recognizing the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and General Comment No. 22 (48) of 20 July 1993 of the Human Rights Committee, and on the basis of the Turkish Constitution, which enshrines freedom of belief, the Special Rapporteur believes that regional characteristics and tensions are not sufficient to justify, in Turkey or anywhere else, a categorical rejection of conscientious objections, and recommends that legislation be adopted to guarantee the right to conscientious objections, particularly for religious beliefs."

E/CN.4/2000/65, para. 87:

"87. The Special Rapporteur, while understanding the concerns of the Republic of Korea, wishes to recall that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in several resolutions, such as resolution 1998/77, recognized the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as laid down in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and General Comment No. 22 (48) of the Human Rights Committee. It also reminded States with a system of compulsory military service, where such a provision has not already been made, of its recommendation that they provide for conscientious objectors various forms of alternative service which are compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection, of non-combatant or civilian character, in the public interest and of not punitive nature. Moreover, it should be pointed out pursuant to article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, freedom of belief cannot be subject to limitations, on the understanding that it is distinct from freedom to manifest a belief, which can be subject to limitations as provided for by international law."

E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.1, paras. 10-11, 25-26, 138 and 305 (communications report):

"10. The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the Government's response. She would like to draw the Government's attention to Paragraph 5 of Resolution 1998/77 of the Commission on Human Rights, which emphasizes that States should take the necessary measures to refrain from subjecting conscientious objectors to imprisonment.

11. Moreover, she notes that the Human Rights Committee has encouraged States to ensure that the length of alternative service does not have a punitive character, in comparison to the duration of regular military service. (See inter alia CCPR/CO/83/GRC, paragraph 15). Noting Armenia 's commitment regarding alternative service further to its accession to the Council of Europe, she encourages the Government to initiate a review the law from the perspective of its compliance with international standards and best practices. [...]

25. The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the detailed response regarding Mr. Mahir Baghirov. However, she would like to refer the Government's attention to Article 1 of Resolution 1998/77 of the Commission on Human Rights, which draws attention to the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service. This right is not, and should not be, limited to clerics and students of religious schools. She encourages the Government to review its legislation on alternative service, in accordance with international standards and best practices.

26. She will address the question of conscientious objection as well as other situations raised by the above communication in the report that will be submitted further to the visit that she carried out in Azerbaijan from 26 February to 5 March 2006 at the invitation of the Government. [...]

138. The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the Government's detailed response to her communication. However, she notes with concern the strict time limits for applying for conscientious objector status. In this regard, she draws the Government's attention to Council of Europe Recommendation 1518(2001), which invites member states to introduce into their legislation "[t]he right to be registered as a conscientious objector at any time before, during or after conscription, or performance of military service". This acknowledges that conscientious objection may develop over time, and even after a person has already participated in military training or activities. [...]

305. The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the Government's detailed response. She has also taken note of the Government's position on conscientious objectors through the third periodic State Party Report, which it submitted to the Human Rights Committee in February 2005 (CCPR/C/KOR/2005/3). While she notes that military service may sometimes be necessary for purposes of national security she would like to draw the Government's attention to paragraph 11 of General Comment 22 of the Human Rights Committee which provides that although the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "does not explicitly refer to a right to conscientious objection, the Committee believes that such a right can be derived from article 18, inasmuch as the obligation to use lethal force may seriously conflict with the freedom of conscience and the right to manifest one's religion or belief".

[Go back to the Framework for communications]

Site map  Contact us