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Greece: Prisoner of conscience: Nikos Karanikas, conscientious objector

, N° d'index: EUR 25/011/1995

On 19 December the appeal against the prison sentence of Nikos Karanikas will be heard. AI considers him, the first person in Greece since January 1993 to be imprisoned for refusing compulsary militray service on non-religious grounds, to be a prisoner of conscience who should be immediately released.

EXTERNAL AI Index: EUR 25/11/95
EXTRA 146/95 Prisoner of conscience 24 November 1995
GREECENikos KARANIKAS, conscientious objector
On 19 December 1995, the appeal against the prison sentence of conscientious
objector Nikos Karanikas will be heard at Thessaloniki Appeal Court. Amnesty
International considers Nikos Karanikas - the first person in Greece since
January 1993 to be imprisoned for refusing compulsory military service on
non-religious grounds - to be a prisoner of conscience who should be immediately
Nikos Karanikas was arrested from his home in Alexandria village near
Thessaloniki on 25 August 1995. He was sentenced to four years' imprisonment
on 5 October, despite the Prosecutor's recommendations for a three-year
sentence, for "insubordination in a period of general mobilization" (Greece
has been in such a situation since the invasion of Northern Cyprus by Turkish
troops in 1974) under Article 70 of the Military Penal Code. He is currently
serving his sentence in Pavlos Melas military prison, Thessaloniki.
Nikos Karanikas refused to serve compulsory military service on political and
philosophical grounds. There are some 60 other conscientious objectors who
have declared their opposition to military service on such grounds, and who
may face arrest and imprisonment at any time. Since October 1994, three
attempts to arrest one of them, Dimitris Sotiropoulos, a member of the Greek
Association of Conscientious Objectors in Athens, from his home or work place
have failed.
Amnesty International does not take a position on conscription as such and
does not oppose the right of a state to request a citizen to undertake alternative
civilian service. However, in the absence of any provision for such an
alternative service (of non-punitive length), the organization considers all
imprisoned conscientious objectors to be prisoners of conscience.
There are some 350 conscientious objectors imprisoned in Greece, most of them
Jehovah's Witnesses. There is no provision for alternative civilian service
in Greece although the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the European
Parliament and the Council of Europe have all appealed to member states to
recognize the right to have conscientious objections to military service and
introduce alternative civilian service.
i) The United Nations Commission on Human Rights: Resolution 1989/59, which
was reaffirmed in 1991 (1991/65), 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" and recommends that Member
States provide alternative service "in principle of a non-combatant or civilian
character, in the public interest and not of a punitive nature".
ii) Council of Europe: Recommendation No. R (87) 8 of the Committee of
Ministers to Member States Regarding Conscientious Objection to Compulsory
Military Service, recommends that governments of member states make provision
in their legislation for conscientious objectors to have the right to perform
alternative service which is not of a punitive nature. However, the Greek
Government has reserved the right not to comply with the recommendation in
paragraph 9 which states that alternative service "shall be in principle
civilian and in the public interest".
iii) The European Parliament's Resolution on conscientious objection and
alternative civilian service adopted 13 October 1989, "Calls for the right
to be granted to all conscripts at any time to refuse military service, whether
armed or unarmed, on grounds of conscience, with full respect for the principles
of freedom and equal treatment for all members of society" (§1). The same
resolution also calls on the Commission and the Member States to press for
the right to alternative civilian service to be incorporated in the European
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as
a human right (§11). On 11 March 1993, the European Parliament adopted a
resolution on respect for human rights in the European Community. In the
section on conscientious objection it "Considers that the right of conscientious
objection, as recognized by Resolution 89/59 of the UN Commission on Human
Rights on conscientious objection to military service, should be incorporated
in the legal systems of the Member States"(§46). It is also: "Condemns the
trials and imprisonment of conscientious objectors in the Member States, many
of whom have been regarded as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International"
(§50) and "Condemns, in particular the practice in Greece which treats
conscientious objectors as criminals and condemns them to long periods of
imprisonment in military prisons" (§53).
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
English, French, Greek or your own language:
- calling for the immediate release of Nikos Karanikas, a prisoner of conscience;
- urging that there be no further arrests of conscientious objectors and calling
on the Greek Government to comply with international recommendations and
introduce civilian alternative service of non-punitive length;
- calling for the release of the other 350 conscientious objectors imprisoned
in Greece.
1) Mr Gerasimos Arsenis
Minister of Defence
Ministry of Defence
Holargos (Pentagonos)
Athens, Greece
Faxes: +30 1 323 1636 or +30 1 644 3832
Telegrams: Defence Minister Arsenis, Athens, Greece
Salutation: Dear Minister
2) Mr Karolos Papoulias
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
1 Akadimias
106 71 Athens, Greece
Faxes: +30 1 361 1180
Telegrams: Foreign Minister Papoulias, Athens, Greece
Salutation: Dear Minister
COPIES TO: Diplomatic representatives of GREECE accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 19 December 1995.

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