Turkey - Conscientious objector jailed for life

blood divider

I am not a draft evader, but a conscientious objector. I neither think to escape nor to go to conscription. I have no reason to escape from conscription because I am in favour of people using their right not to be conscripted without having to hide. I am not a soldier and never will be ... I will never, ever, conduct military service in any way. -- Osman Murat Ulke

The right to life is also the responsibility not to cause death. Killing a person is the most obvious way of violating the right to life. Therefore, conscientious objection is not only a right for me, but rather it is my responsibility. -- Osman Murat Ulke

... I maintain that the military court has no legal right to try me. I never became a soldier. Therefore, I have won the trial from the start: it will not change my attitude and thus will fail in its purpose. -- Osman Murat Ulke

Osman Murat Ulke is the first Turkish conscientious objector to publicly reject military service. He has been repeatedly tried in military courts for 'desertion' and 'insubordination'. The net result of this cycle is that he has effectively been sentenced to life imprisonment.

1 September 1995, Osman Murat Ulke publicly burnt his draft papers. He is not the first to refuse to serve in Turkey's dirty war against the Kurds in occupied Kurdistan, but the first to publicly declare his refusal.

7 October 1996, Osman Murat Ulke was detained in Izmir, and formally arrested the following day. 19 November 1996, he was put on trial at the Military Court of the General Staff of Ankara. He was charged under Article 155 of the Turkish Penal Code and Article 58 of the Military Penal Code with 'alienating the public from the institution of military service'.

After the hearing, he was formally released, taken under escort to a military prison, from there to his assigned unit. On arrival he refused to put on a military uniform or obey orders. He was transferred back to prison, then tried in a military court for 'insubordination'. In December 1996, the court ordered him back to his unit. He refused to go.

Osman Murat Ulke has gone through an endless cycle of detention, trials, charges of 'desertion' and 'persistent insubordination', refusal to report to his unit, wear a uniform or obey orders. This endless cycle in effect sentences him to life imprisonment.

Observers from Amnesty International and a German war resisters group have been denied access to the courts.

In a separate development, the Ankara Military Court brought charges against the authors (which included Osman Murat Ulke and executive members of the Izmir War Resisters Association) of 'The Human Rights Panorama in Turkey', a compilation of speeches and messages prepared for an assembly organised by the Ankara branch of the Turkish Human Rights Association (who were also charged). They were charged under Article 155 of the Turkish Penal Code with 'alienating the public from military service'. The court ruled that the matter was outside of its jurisdiction, however the court declared that the publication was 'an insult to the armed forces', and that a case should be brought in the criminal court.

Osman Murat Ulke was elected to the War Resisters' International Council at the WRI Triennial (Croatia, September 1998). Osman Murat Ulke is due for release some time November 1998, but he is unlikely to taste freedom as the Turkish state will simply repeat its cycle of brutalisation.

In its treatment of Osman Murat Ulke, Turkey is in breach of its international obligations.

The right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is inherent in the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as recognised in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

November 1997, the Council of Europe and the European Union, reminded member states of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that the right to conscientious objection to military service was an important part of the OCSE's commitment to upholding freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Amnesty International has adopted Osman Murat Ulke as a Prisoner of Conscience. AI has also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Osman Murat Ulke and that Turkey provides alternative civilian service in line with recommendations by the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Council of Europe, and OSCE.

Turkey: Osman Murat Ulke - conscientious objector jailed, Amnesty International

Turkey: Osman Murat Ulke - conscientious objector imprisoned for life, Amnesty International

More information on the case may be obtained from:
Amnesty International, 1 Easton Street, LONDON WC1X 8DJ, England
tel +44-171-413-5500 / fax +44-171-956-1157
e-mail info@amnesty.org
Web http://www.amnesty.org
Izmir War Resisters Association (ISKD), 1438 Sok No 12/3, Alsancak - Ismir, Turkey
tel +90-232-464-2492 / fax +90-232-464-0842
e-mail osi@info-ist.comlink.de

Justice in Turkey?
(c) Keith Parkins 1998 -- November 1998 rev 2
AI logo