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Conscientious objection gets step nearer in the north.


Simon Bahceli

ANTI-militarist activists in the north yesterday succeeded in forcing the military to transfer a case involving a conscientious objector from a military to a 'constitutional' court.

Such a case, unprecedented in the north, means that for the first time the Turkish-run Turkish Cypriot military has been forced to acknowledge the existence of conscientious objectors who refuse to do compulsory military service.

"This opens the road to a change in the law," Murat Kanatli, north Cyprus' first official conscientious objector told the Cyprus Mail minutes after a judge read out yesterday's verdict.

Kanatli, whose case had been adjourned six times by the military court before a civilian judge came to a decision yesterday, said he was "pleased" with the verdict as it was "the first step towards putting the ability to conscientiously object into the law [in the north]".

Despite being conducted in a military court, cases involving civilians are now presided over by civilian judges, and have been since a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling against Turkey over the prosecution of Greek Cypriots accused of "cross-border incursions" forced it to replace military with civilian judicators.

Yesterday's proceedings were overseen by Piet Dorflinger, a delegate from the European Bureau for Conscientious Objectors (EBCO), an organisation seeking to enshrine the rights of conscientious objectors worldwide.

He described the decision to send Kanatli's case to the 'constitutional court' as part of "a process that is slowly happening".

Kanatli and his supporters, who now include five more young individuals who yesterday submitted written refusal to take part in military training, have also received written messages of support from the European Greens and European Left.

Commenting on verdict, one of Kanatli's lawyers, Oncel Polili, told the Cyprus Mail the 'constitutional court' would now have to look at whether forcefully conscripting people with religious or ethical reasons for not joining the army was 'unconstitutional'.

"In theory it is possible the court could find it unconstitutional because 'TRNC' law has encapsulated within it the European Convention of Human Rights," he said.

According to Polili, the north is legally bound by the Convention because leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community signed it along with their Greek Cypriot counterparts in 1961. He said however he expected to have to wait one to two years before the case came before the court. Failure of the court to recognise his client's right to conscientiously object would result in him taking the case to the ECHR, he said.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2011

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EXCY
Date:Dec 9, 2011
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