Turkey must set free conscientious objector

Amnesty International has called on the Turkish authorities to release a conscientious objector who was arrested after he refused military service on religious grounds.

Enver Aydemir says he was beaten with truncheons in Maltepe military prison when he refused to wear military uniform on arrival on 24 December 2009 and that the next morning he was forcibly dressed in military uniform and beaten again by the governor of the prison.

He began a hunger strike in protest but was taken to the prison infirmary and forcibly placed on a drip.

“Enver Aydemir is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director Halya Gowan.

“The Turkish authorities must ensure that he is not tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and investigate his allegations of ill-treatment promptly and independently.”

On 28 December, Enver Aydemir’s lawyer made an official complaint to the state prosecutor about his treatment and requested urgent medical attention. The lawyer told Amnesty International that, instead, Enver Aydemir was made to undergo a “psychiatric test”.

A small number of conscientious objectors who have undergone similar tests have been issued with a report stating that they have an “advanced anti-social personality disorder” and are therefore “unsuitable for military service in times of peace and war”.

Amnesty International is concerned that such reports are issued not due to any psychological condition but solely to insistence on their status as conscientious objectors.

Turkey fails to recognize the right to conscientious objection, contrary to its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and does not provide any civilian alternative to military service.

Conscientious objectors who have publicly stated their refusal to carry out military service have been subjected to criminal prosecution and imprisonment of up to three years.

On release, they often receive new call-up papers, and the process is repeated. This results in what the European Court for Human Rights describes as “civil death” of conscientious objectors, who are repeatedly prosecuted and convicted for their refusal to carry out military service.

Enver Aydemir initially declared his conscientious objection in 2007. He was taken, against his will, to carry out his military service and was imprisoned a week later in Eskişehir military prison.

In October that year, he was brought before a military court but was released on condition that he promptly present himself to carry out his military service.

Following his release, he has restated his refusal to perform military service on grounds of his religious conviction and did not join his unit, leading to the issuing of an arrest warrant under which he was arrested last month.

Enver Aydemir is currently awaiting trial in Eskişehir military prison. A court hearing has been set for 21 January where he will face charges of insubordination and desertion.