A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

The United Nations

The different bodies of the United Nations have repeatedly dealt with the question of conscientious objection to military service. The UN General Assembly resolution on the “Status of persons refusing service in military or police forces used to enforce apartheid (Resolution 33/165)” from 20 December 1978 recognised “the right of all persons to refuse service in military or police forces which are used to enforce apartheid”.

Both, the former Commission on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Council, which replaced the Commission in 2006, have recognised the right to conscientious objection in numerous resolutions since 1987, with the Human Rights Council reaffirming the resolutions of the former Commission on Human Rights in its resolution from 5 July 2012.

The issue of conscientious objection to military service is repeatedly taken up during the Universal Periodic Review of all member States of the United Nations within the framework of the Human Rights Council. In addition, several of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are relevant to the question of conscientious objection, especially:

An overview of some other potentially relevant Special Procedures is given on this page.

Two human rights treaties are especially relevant for conscientious objectors to military service:

  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is overseen by the Human Rights Committee. Article 18 of the ICCPR recognises the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the interpretations and jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee have established that this includes the right to conscientious objection to military service.
  • the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict do not directly deal with conscientious objection, but are relevant in relation to the recruitment of under-18s.

In addition, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and its country presences can be of use to conscientious objectors.

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is responsible for leading the United Nations human rights programme and for promoting and protecting all human rights established under the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights law.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations. He/She heads OHCHR and spearheads the United Nations' human rights efforts.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights provides secretariat support to the nine core human rights treaty bodies including the Human Rights Committee (CCPR), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and the Human Rights Council with its subsidiary mechanisms as the Advisory Committee, the Universal Periodic Review and the two Working Groups established under the Council’s Complaint Procedure, the Working Group on Communications and the Working Group on Situations. In this role it receives communications, forwards them to the State concerned and engages in dialogue with the aim of securing respect for the human rights stipulated in the international human rights treaties.

The OHCHR can also be an important independent actor for the protection of human rights, including the right to conscientious objection. This is especially the case where the OHCHR is present in a country through its country offices or regional offices.
Currently the OHCHR has offices in Bolivia, Cambodia, Colombia, Guatemala, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (stand-alone office), Kosovo (Serbia), Togo, and Uganda. Details of country offices can be found at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/Pages/CountryOfficesIndex.aspx.
OHCHR has 12 regional offices/centres covering East Africa (Addis Ababa), Southern Africa (Pretoria), West Africa (Dakar) Central America (Panama City), South America (Santiago de Chile), Europe (Brussels), Central Asia (Bishkek), South East Asia (Bangkok), Pacific (Suva) and the Middle East (Beirut). Details of the regional offices are available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/Pages/RegionalOfficesIndex.aspx.

Both, country offices and regional offices are engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights, and cooperate also with NGOs. Information they receive will be used for the compilation of the OHCHR report as part of the Universal Periodic Review (see below). In case of a national or regional presence, it can be very useful to establish a relationship with the relevant office of the OHCHR, and to keep them informed of the situation, and of individual cases.

The OHCHR is also coordinating the United Nations human rights education and public information programmes.

Office holder(s)

September 2008 – present: Ms. Navanethem Pillay

Contact Details: 
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Palais Wilson 52 rue des Pâquis CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland Telephone: +41 22 917 9220 E-mail: InfoDesk@ohchr.org
Further Reading: 
Reference texts

None

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Human Rights Committee: State Reporting Procedure

Summary

The Human Rights Committee (hereinafter referred to as HR Committee or Committee) is a treaty-based mechanism which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (see: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm) by State Parties. This is done through the examination of regular reports from States Parties (for States Parties see http://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&c...) The report is examined through a six-hour (periodic reports) or nine-hour (initial reports) dialogue between the Committee and representatives of the State. During the dialogue Committee members may raise any civil or political rights issues, including rights not addressed in the State report. After the dialogue, the Committee produces Concluding Observations, which outline recommendations, and comment on the State's practice and legislation.

1. Likely results from use of the mechanism

During the examination of the State's report, members of the Committee may also raise issues related to conscientious objection to military service. If the Committee comes to the conclusion that the State's practice does not comply with the ICCPR, it will outline this in its Concluding Observations in the form of concerns and recommendations. When the State reappears in front of the Committee, the Committee will be highly likely to ask the State about improvements it has made.
In some cases, the issue of conscientious objection to military service may also be chosen for the Committee's follow-up procedure.
The Concluding Observations may also be included in the compilation of UN information prepared for the Universal Periodic Review.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

The mechanism applies to those States who have ratified or acceded to the ICCPR. The status of ratifications is available at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&c....

3. Who can submit information?

Anyone – including NGOs without ECOSOC consultative status, and individuals.

4. When to submit information?

Information for the List of Issues

The List of Issues is a document prepared by the Committee on the basis of the State report and information from other sources which aims to highlight the Committee's major issues of concerns for the review. The List of Issues is sent to the State several months before the dialogue so that the State can prepare responses. These responses form the starting point for the dialogue between the Committee and the State. It is therefore important to submit information before the drafting of the List of Issues to ensure that the issue of conscientious objection to military service is included in the List of Issues and so addressed throughout the review process.

The List of Issues is drafted by the Country Report Task Force (CRTF) with the support of the OHCHR at least two months before the session at which it is scheduled to be adopted.
For deadlines please visit: http://www.ccprcentre.org/next-session.

Submissions sent after the adoption of the List of Issues may be taken into account during the dialogue.

Information for standard reporting:

After the adoption of the List of Issues it is still worth submitting information for the examination of the State report. This should make reference to the List of Issues, if conscientious objection to military service is included. If the State has provided written replies to the List of Issues reference can also be made to these. However, the State is not obliged to provide its written replies in advance, so the NGOs should not wait for the State replies before preparing their submissions.
If the List of Issues does not include conscientious objection to military service, NGOs should prepare a short report explaining the issues with a view to getting them appropriately addressed during the dialogue with the State. Information should be submitted no later than two weeks before the start of the session at which the State report will be examined.

In their reports NGOs should highlight errors and omissions in the information provided by the State. The State reports are public and accessible online at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/sessions.htm. If not you might have to request it from your Ministry of Foreign Affairs or, if that is not possible, from the UN Human Rights Committee secretariat. Due to a backlog of State reports there is usually a delay of about a year between the submission of the State report and the start of the Committee's consideration.
Once the State report is available, check online when the report is likely to be considered: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/sessions.htm or http://www.ccprcentre.org/next-session.

Information for reporting under the Optional Reporting Procedure

In October 2009, the Human Rights Committee introduced a new Optional Reporting Procedure (also called LOIPR procedure), based on a List of Issues Prior to Reporting (LOIPR). A five year pilot period started in November 2010.
The Optional Reporting Procedure is optional, as the name applies. A State can continue to submit a full periodic report, or the Committee can request a full report “when it deems that particular circumstances warrant a full report, including when a fundamental change in the State party’s political and legal approach affecting Covenant rights has occurred; in such a case a full article-by-article report may be required”.

The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights will publish a list of those States that report under the LOIPR procedure, where possible, at least nine months prior to the session during which the LOIPR is to be adopted by the Committee. This gives NGOs the opportunity to submit their information prior to the adoption of the List of Issues Prior to Reporting.

5. Any special advice for making a submission to this mechanism?

Structure of the Report

The following information applies to reports dealing only with conscientious objection to military service. If you are preparing a longer report covering multiple issues please consult the Centre for Civil and Political Rights' Guidelines for NGOs on Engagement with the Human Rights Committee (http://www.ccprcentre.org/en/ngo-guidelines).

Introduction

The introduction should include a presentation of the NGO (including the contact details) submitting the report and relevant information about the general context, such as historical context, specific situations (e.g. armed conflict or socio-economic context), without repeating information provided in the State report.

Substantive part

The information provided in the report should be directly linked to an analysis of the implementation of the Covenant, with clear indications of which articles are being breached, in what way, and the consequences that this implies. It may be useful to refer to already established interpretations of what constitutes a breach of the Covenant e.g. General Comment 22.
Also review and analyse how far the national laws, policies and other measures in the State Party comply with the ICCPR. Specific attention should be focused on gaps between the national laws and their implementation.
NGO written submissions should be objective and it is therefore advisable to acknowledge any progress, such as the positive measures taken by the State to implement the Covenant. It can be useful for NGO reports to illustrate the NGOs findings with cases that show concretely how the authorities fail to implement the ICCPR. Case law should be updated with the latest judicial process and other relevant information such as dates and sources. NGOs should be sure that the credibility of the information cannot be called into question.
It is worth reminding the Committee of its previous Concluding Observations where relevant.

Conclusions and recommendations

At the end of your submission, include a list of suggested questions about domestic legislation or practice that you would like the Committee to put to the government.
Many NGOs include recommendations in their reports, which they like the Committee to make in the Concluding Observations. Recommendations should be concrete, realistic and action oriented. Recommendations could also be made with regard to the role of NGOs in the implementation of the Concluding Observations.
However, others, such as War Resisters' International, do not include recommendations, and focus on criticising violations of the ICCPR.

Reference to the State report and the previous Concluding Observations

NGOs should indicate whether their information corroborates, supplements, or contradicts the information provided in the State report. If the State has not addressed the issue at all this should also be noted.

The Concluding Observations adopted by the Human Rights Committee after the examination of the previous State report should also be taken into account by NGOs when they start to draft their reports as one of the Committee's objectives is to monitor how far their previous recommendations have been implemented. It is extremely important to assess if any progress has been made by the authorities with regard to the previous Concluding Observations. When NGOs consider that no improvement has been made with regard to the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee, it should be clearly stated.
It may also be very useful to consult the summary records of the discussions that took place during the consideration of the previous report by the Committee as well as the written replies or comments (if any) provided by the State in response to the previous recommendations of the Committee. Both are available on the OHCHR web site as well as on the CCPR Centre website: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/followup-procedure.htm.

Consider putting out a press release saying that you have made the submission and send copies to anyone you think should see it. This might include other parts of the UN human rights machinery.

Confidentiality

Usually, NGO information submitted to the Human Rights Committee is made public and posted on the OHCHR website, if the NGO agrees to this. This means that the reports are also available to the State Parties. This should be kept in mind especially for NGOs coming from countries where civil society cannot work freely and is harassed by the authorities.
Although it is possible to state that information shall not be posted to the OHCHR website the Human Rights Committee cannot however withhold the information after a State request.
If you are concerned about confidentiality, please contact the CCPR Centre for advice.

Language

NGO reports should be submitted in one or more of the Human Rights Committee's working languages: English, French and Spanish. If the entire report cannot be translated NGOs should consider preparing a short executive summary in all three languages.
Naturally all information submitted should be as concise as possible.

Lobbying during the session

Everybody is allowed to attend the Committee sessions as observers. Before attending however you have to apply to the Secretariat for accreditation.
Attendance at the session at which the State report is reviewed by the Committee is very important as it allows NGOs to react to the information provided by the State representatives. If necessary NGOs should be ready to provide informal feedback to the Committee members when assertions made by State representatives seem to be irrelevant or inaccurate. Although NGOs are not allowed to take the floor in the plenary session, Committee members can be approached and lobbied during break in the meeting, at the end of the meeting or before the meeting starts the following day. NGOs should not hesitate to suggest additional questions or clarifications that the Committee could ask the State representatives. There are also two opportunities for NGOs to meet the Committee members and present their concerns:

Formal NGO briefings

NGOs have the opportunity to address the Committee on issues and subjects of concern related to countries being reviewed during the formal NGO briefings, typically lasting 30 minutes per country, and taking place on the same day or the day before the review of the country's report. These briefings are chaired by the Committee's President and are closed, which means that only Committee members and the NGOs are allowed to attend and participate. The meeting is conducted in the Committee's working languages (English, French and Spanish). Interpretation between these languages is provided.
The President invites each NGO to deliver a brief statement (statement should take no more than two or three minutes to read slowly) and afterwards time is allocated for Committee members to ask questions and NGOs to reply.
If a national NGO is not in a position to take part in the NGO briefing the CCPR Centre (http://www.ccprcentre.org/) can address the Human Rights Committee on its behalf.

Informal NGO Briefings

The Centre for Civil and Political Rights also organises informal briefings with the Committee. These informal meetings are usually scheduled over lunchtime and last up to 90 minutes. They are not held in the Committee room and no interpretation is provided. Although not all Committee members attend these meetings, they are a unique opportunity for NGOs to raise their concerns and to respond to the Committee members' questions. Usually there is one briefing on each State reviewed.
The Centre for Civil and Political Rights coordinates the informal briefings and assists NGOs with the practical arrangements. NGOs wishing to take part should contact the Centre before the session.

6. Special rules of procedure or advice for making a submission?

No

7. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

Due to a backlog of State reports there is usually a delay of about a year between the submission of the State report and the start of the Committee’s consideration. The Committee will prepare by reading the report and any other material available to it on the country in question, for example from special rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council, or NGOs.
The Committee, with the support of the Secretariat, will draft the List of Issues and adopt it during one of their sessions. The List of Issues is sent to the State so that they can prepare replies.
The State is then examined in a public meeting during one of the Committee's sessions. The examination begins with an opening presentation by the State Party’s delegation, including responses to the List of Issues. The Committee members then put questions to the representatives, seeking to clarify or deepen their understanding of issues concerning the implementation and enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by the ICCPR in the State Party. This often includes questions that have not been fully answered in the responses to the List of Issues.
Usually the Committee takes two half day meetings (of three hours) to consider a periodic State report and three meetings (of three hours) to consider an initial report. At the end of the session, the Committee will produce Concluding Observations outlining recommendations and comments on the State's practice and legislation.

A) Raising awareness about the Concluding Observations

One of the key areas for NGOs is engaging national interest to ensure that the Concluding Observations are widely disseminated, discussed, and implemented. Issuing press releases as soon as the Concluding Observations are available is the first step to ensure that the national media are aware of the recommendations of the Committee. Press releases should also integrate the findings and the concerns of the NGOs.

NGOs may also organise press conferences at the national level or take advantage of their presence at the United Nations Offices to meet press and agencies' correspondents based in New
York or Geneva.

Although it is the duty of the State to translate the Concluding Observations into national languages and make them available to the public this is often not done. It is therefore an important task for NGOs to make sure the Concluding Observations (or the relevant parts) are translated into national languages, minority languages) and accessible to all interested parties.

B) Lobbying for the implementation of the Concluding Observations

The implementation of the Concluding Observations is the ultimate objective of the NGOs. However this is probably the most challenging aspect of the follow-up process as the result depends on the willingness of the State authorities to cooperate and be actively involved in implementation.
NGOs and civil society can nevertheless play a role in this matter, particularly in lobbying the authorities to ensure that concrete steps are taken toward the implementation of the Concluding Observations.
Round tables or special events on the implementation of the Concluding Observations could be very useful to engage the State's authorities in dialogue, Parliamentarians and the bodies or ministries responsible for implementing and monitoring human rights should be targeted in particular.

C) Reporting back to the Human Rights Committee

The Human Rights Committee has a follow-up procedure in which it asks the State to report on the implementation of selected Concluding Observations one year after the review. However, to date the Committee has only once included conscientious objection to military service in the issues selected for this procedure.
At the time of the next review of the State the NGOs should report on the progress made in implementing the Concluding Observations.

8. History of the use of the mechanism

Most issues relating to conscientious objection will come up in front of the Human Rights Committee as opposed to any other treaty body.
The UN Human Rights Reporting Handbook provides guidance to States for raising the issue in their report to the Human Rights Committee. Under article 18 States are asked to discuss the status and position of conscientious objectors and to provide statistical information regarding the number of persons who have applied for conscientious objector status and the number who were actually recognised as such. They are also asked to give the reasons used to justify conscientious objection and the rights and duties of conscientious objectors as compared to those who serve in the regular military service.

Contact Details: 
NGO information should be sent by post to: Secretary of the Human Rights Committee Human Rights Council and Treaty Bodies Division Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights UNOG-OHCHR, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland An electronic copy should be sent to: Secretary of the Human Rights Committee email: ccpr@ohchr.org. NGOs have to send their documents electronically to the Secretariat of the Human Rights Committee as well as providing 25 hard copies that will be distributed to the Experts. If needed, the CCPR Centre will provide support to the NGOs in the transmission of the documents to the Secretariat.
Further Reading: 

Interpretations

Title Date
General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the ICCPR 13/07/1993

General Comment 22 emphasises the broad scope of the freedom of thought, and clarifies that article 18 protects all form of religion, including the right not to profess any religion or belief.
However, manifestation of religion or beliefs may be limited on the grounds of the protection of others (also article 20: prohibition of propaganda for war, hatred or discrimination).
No restrictions on other grounds may be imposed “even if they would be allowed as restrictions to other rights protected in the Covenant, such as national security”. (reiterated in General Comment 29)
(…) while the ICCPR does not explicitly refer to the right to conscientious objection, that 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” (para. 11).

Recognition of CO Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
General Comment 32 on Article 34 of the ICCPR 23/08/2007

General Comment 34 on article 14 (right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial) also deals with conscientious objection, specifically noting that the principle of “ne bis in idem” (paragraph 7 of article 14) prohibits the repeated punishment of conscientious objectors for a refusal to perform military service.

Repeated punishment Recognised
General Comment 29 on Article 4 of the ICCPR 24/07/2001

General Comment 29 on article 4 (states of emergency) clarifies that no derogation from Article 18 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) is allowed during a state of emergency (paragraph 7).
Even in times of most serious public emergencies, States that interfere with the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief must justify their actions by referring to the requirements specified in article 18, paragraph 3.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Concluding Observations
Title Date
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Turkey 01/11/2012

23. The Committee is concerned that conscientious objection to military service has not been recognized by the State party. The Committee regrets that conscientious objectors or persons supporting conscientious objection are still at risk of being sentenced to imprisonment and that, as they maintain their refusal to undertake military service, they are practically deprived of some of their civil and political rights such as freedom of movement and right to vote.. (arts. 12, 18 and 25)

The State party should adopt legislation recognizing and regulating conscientious objection to military service, so as to provide the option of alternative service, without the choice of that option entailing punitive or discriminatory effects and, in the meantime, suspend all proceedings against conscientious objectors and suspend all sentences already imposed.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Concluding Observations: Turkmenistan 29/03/2012

16. The Committee is concerned that the Conscription and Military Service Act, as amended on 25 September 2010, does not recognize a person’s right to exercise conscientious objection to military service and does not provide for any alternative military service. The Committee regrets that due to this law, a number of persons belonging to the Jehovah’s Witness have been repeatedly prosecuted and imprisoned for refusing to perform compulsory military service (art. 18).

The State party should take all necessary measures to review its legislation with a view to providing for alternative military service. The State party should also ensure that the law clearly stipulates that individuals have the right to conscientious objection to military service. Furthermore, the State party should halt all prosecutions of individuals who refuse to perform military service on grounds of conscience and release those individuals who are currently serving prison sentences.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Mongolia 01/05/2011

23. The Committee is concerned about the absence of an alternative civil service that would enable conscientious objectors to military service to exercise their rights in accordance with the provisions of the Covenant. The Committee is also concerned about the exemption fee that can be paid in lieu of doing military service, and the discrimination that may result therefrom (arts. 18 and 26 of the Covenant).

The State party should put in place an alternative to military service, which is accessible to all conscientious objectors and neither punitive nor discriminatory in nature, cost and/or duration.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Israel 2010 28/07/2010

19. The Committee notes that certain exemptions from obligatory military service have been granted on the grounds of conscientious objection. It is concerned at the independence of the “Committee for Granting Exemptions from Defence Service for Reasons of Conscience”, which is composed, with the exception of one civilian, of officials of the armed forces. It notes that persons, whose conscientious objection was not accepted by the Committee, may be repeatedly imprisoned for their refusal to serve in the armed forces (arts. 14 and 18).

The “Committee for Granting Exemptions from Defence Service for Reasons of Conscience” should be made fully independent, persons submitting applications on the grounds of conscientious objections should be heard and have the right to appeal the Committee’s decision. Repeated imprisonment for refusal to serve in the armed forces may constitute a violation of the principle of ne bis in idem, and should therefore be ceased.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Estonia 27/07/2010

14. The Committee is concerned that few applications for alternative to military service have been approved during the last few years (11 of 64 in 2007, 14 of 68 in 2008, 32 of 53 in 2009). It is also concerned about the lack of clear grounds for accepting or rejecting an application for alternative to military service (art. 18, 26).

The State party should clarify the grounds under which applications to alternative to military service are accepted or rejected and take relevant measures to ensure that the right of conscientious objection is upheld.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Russian Federation 29/10/2009

23. While welcoming the reduction by half, in 2008, of the prescribed length of civilian service for conscientious objectors from 42 months to 21 months, the Committee notes with concern that it is still 1.75 times longer than military service, and that the State party maintains the position that the discrimination suffered by conscientious objectors is due to such alternative service being a “preferential treatment” (para. 151, CCPR/C/RUS/6). The Committee notes with regret that the conditions of service for alternative service are punitive in nature, including the requirement to perform such services outside places of permanent residence, the receipt of low salaries, which are below the subsistence level for those who are assigned to work in social organisations, and the restrictions in freedom of movement for the persons concerned. The Committee is also concerned that the assessment of applications, carried out by a draft panel for such service, is under the control of the Ministry of Defence. (arts. 18, 19, 21, 22 and 25)

The State party should recognize fully the right to conscientious objection, and ensure that the length and the nature of this alternative to military service does not have a punitive character. The State party should also consider placing the assessment of applications for conscientious objector status entirely under the control of civilian authorities.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Azerbaijan 02/08/2009

14. The Committee remains concerned that no legal provision regulates the status of conscientious objectors to military service (art. 18).

The Committee recommends that a law exempting conscientious objectors from compulsory military service and providing for alternative civil service of equivalent length be adopted at an early date in compliance with article 18 of the Covenant and the Committee's General Comment No. 22.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Chile 18/05/2007

13. The Committee notes the State party’s intention to adopt a law recognizing the right of conscientious objection to military service, but continues to be concerned that this right has still not been recognized (article 18 of the Covenant).

The State party should expedite the adoption of legislation recognizing the right of conscientious objection to military service, ensuring that conscientious objectors are not subject to discrimination or punishment and recognizing that conscientious objection can occur at any time, even when a person’s military service has already begun.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Ukraine 28/11/2006

12. While the State party has announced plans to convert its armed forces to an all-volunteer basis, the right to conscientious objection against mandatory military service should be fully respected. Conscientious objection has been accepted only for religious reasons, and only for certain religions.

The State party should extend the right of conscientious objection against mandatory military service to persons who hold non-religious beliefs grounded in conscience, as well as beliefs grounded in all religions.

Discrimination Recognised
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Korea, South 28/11/2006

17. The Committee is concerned that: (a) under the Military Service Act of 2003 the penalty for refusal of active military service is imprisonment for a maximum of three years and that there is no legislative limit on the number of times they may be recalled and subjected to fresh penalties; (b) those who have not satisfied military service requirements are excluded from employment in government or public organisations and that (c) convicted conscientious objectors bear the stigma of a criminal record (art.18).

The State party should take all necessary measures to recognize the right of conscientious objectors to be exempted from military service. It is encouraged to bring legislation into line with article 18 of the Covenant. In this regard, the Committee draws the attention of the State party to the paragraph 11 of its general comment No. 22 (1993) on article 18 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion).

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A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Human Rights Committee: Communication procedure

Summary

The First Optional Protocol establishes an individual complaints mechanism, allowing individuals to complain to the Human Rights Committee about a violation of one or several of their rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Communications may only be submitted against a State that has ratified the First Optional Protocol and after domestic remedies have been exhausted. In addition, the claim should not have been submitted to another treaty body mechanism, nor to a regional mechanism such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, or the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.

If the Committee finds that a State Party has failed in its obligations under the ICCPR, it will require that the violation be remedied and ask that the State Party provide follow-up information in this regard. The Human Rights Committee's decisions and its follow-up activities are made public and are included in the Committee's Annual Report to the General Assembly.

1. Likely results from use of mechanism

A decision from the Human Rights Committee on the case either declaring a violation of the Covenant by the State concerned, or declaring the case inadmissible. If a violation of the Covenant is found, the Committee may recommend that the State concerned make amends, or rectify the situation. This might include recommending compensation to the complainant, or releasing him or her from prison.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

This mechanism applies to States parties to the ICCPR which have also signed and ratified the First Optional Protocol (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr-one.htm).
A complaint can be brought against any State which had jurisdiction over the victim at the moment of the violation, and which has ratified the Optional Protocol. While the violation itself can have taken place before the Optional Protocol entered into force for the State concerned, it is important that some domestic court took a decision in relation to this violation after the Optional Protocol came into force.

3. Who can submit information?

Under the First Optional Protocol the Committee can receive Individual Communications from any individual under the jurisdiction of a State that is party to the First Optional Protocol who claims that his or her rights under the Covenant have been violated by the State Party.
If you wish to file a complaint on behalf of someone else or a group, you must submit a written consent from each of the victims you wish to represent or proof that they are incapable of giving such consent.

4. When to submit information?

There is no time limit after the alleged event for receiving information but it is best to submit the communication as soon as possible after the exhaustion of domestic remedies. In exceptional cases, submission after a protracted period may result in your case being considered inadmissible by the Committee.
Under Rule 96c of the Working Methods of the Committee, a communication submitted after 5 years from the exhaustion of domestic remedies, or after 3 years from the conclusion of another procedure of international investigation or settlement may constitute an abuse of the right of submission.
Repeated claims to the Committee on the same issue although they have already been dismissed are considered an abuse of the complaints process.

5. Special rules of procedure or advice for making a submission?

How to write a complaint:

The complaint mechanisms are designed to be simple and accessible to all. You do not need to be a lawyer or even familiar with legal and technical terms to bring a complaint to a Committee.

For a complaint to be admissible, it needs to meet the following requirements:

  • It has to be submitted by the individual whose rights have been violated, or with the written consent of the individual. Only in exceptional cases, where the individual concerned is unable to give consent, this requirement may be ignored. Anonymous complaints will not be considered.
  • Domestic remedies need to have been exhausted, which means all domestic appeal procedures need to have been tried. However, if you can demonstrate that local remedies are not effective (for example, because the highest court of the country already ruled on a very similar case), not available, or unduly prolonged, this requirement may be ignored.
  • Not be under consideration by another international investigation or settlement procedure.

A complaint, sometimes also called a “communication” or a “petition” need not take any particular form. However, it needs to be in writing and signed (which means email complaints will not be considered). It should provide basic personal information - your name, nationality and date of birth - and specify the State party against which your complaint is directed.

A complaint needs to include – preferably in chronological order – all the facts on which your claim is based, and all efforts that have been made to exhaust domestic remedies (include copies of relevant court decisions and a summary in one of the working languages of the Committee).

It is useful to quote the relevant treaty articles which correspond to your case. It should be explained how the facts of the case disclose a violation of those articles. A model complaint form that can be used can be found at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/docs/annex1.pdf.

Emergency procedures:

If there is a fear of irreparable harm (for example in cases of imminent execution or deportation to torture) before the Committee has examined the case, it is possible to request an intervention by the committee to stop an imminent action (or omission) by a State, which may cause such harm. Such an intervention is called a “request for interim measures of protection”.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

The two major stages in any case are known as the “admissibility” stage and the “merits” stage. The "admissibility" of a case refers to the formal requirements that your complaint must satisfy before the relevant committee can consider its substance. The "merits" of the case are the substance, on the basis of which the committee decides whether or not rights under a treaty have been violated.

If the complaint contains the essential elements outlined above, the case is registered, that is to say formally listed as a case for consideration by the Committee. Due to a big back-log of complaints it can take at least two years for a case to be considered after registration.
After the registration the complaint is transmitted to the State party concerned to give it an opportunity to comment. The State is required to respond to the complaint within six months. If the State party fails to respond to the complaint, you are not disadvantaged, Reminders are sent to the State party. If there is still no response, the committee takes a decision on the case on the basis of the original complaint.
Once the State replies to a submission, the complainant is offered an opportunity to comment. At that point the, the case is ready for a decision by the Committee.
The committee considers Individual Communications in closed session, but its Views (decisions) and the follow-up are public.

7. History of the use of the mechanism

The Communication Procedure has been used successfully in a range of CO cases, which has helped to establish important jurisprudence on the length and terms of substitute service (Foin v. France, 1999) and on the right to conscientious objection itself (Yeo-Bum Yoon and Mr. Myung-Jin Choi vs. Republik of Korea, 2007).

Contact Details: 
Petitions Team OHCHR-UNOG 1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland E-mail: tb-petitions@ohchr.org (indicate “Human rights complaint” in the Subject line of your e-mail.) Fax: +41.22.917.90.22
Further Reading: 
Views adopted (Jurisprudence)
Title Date
Cenk Atasoy and Arda Sarkut vs. Turkey 28/03/2012

10.5 In the present cases, the Committee considers that the authors' refusal to be drafted for compulsory military service derives from their religious beliefs, which have not been contested and which are genuinely held, and that the authors' subsequent prosecution and sentences amount to an infringement of their freedom of conscience, in breach of article 18, paragraph 1, of the Covenant. The Committee recalls that repression of the refusal to be drafted for compulsory military service, exercised against persons whose conscience or religion prohibits the use of arms, is incompatible with article 18, paragraph 1, of the Covenant.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Min-Kyu Jeong et al vs. Republic of Korea 24/03/2011

The complaint concerned the cases of more than 100 Jehovah's Witnesses sentenced to imprisonment for their conscientious objection to military service.

7.3 (…) The right to conscientious objection to military service inheres in the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It entitles any individual to an exemption from compulsory military service if this cannot be reconciled with that individual’s religion or beliefs. The right must not be impaired by coercion. A State may, if it wishes, compel the objector to undertake a civilian alternative to military service, outside the military sphere and not under military command. The alternative service must not be of a punitive nature. It must be a real service to the community and compatible with respect for human rights.
7.4 In the present cases, the Committee considers that the authors' refusal to be drafted for compulsory military service derives from their religious beliefs which, it is uncontested, were genuinely held and that the authors’ subsequent conviction and sentence amounted to an infringement of their freedom of conscience, in breach of article 18, paragraph 1 of the Covenant. Repression of the refusal to be drafted for compulsory military service, exercised against persons whose conscience or religion prohibit the use of arms, is incompatible with article 18, paragraph 1 of the Covenant.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Eu-min Jung, Tae-Yang Oh, Chang-Geun Yeom, Dong-hyuk Nah, Ho-Gun Yu, Chi-yun Lim, Choi Jin, Tae-hoon Lim, Sung-hwan Lim, Jae-sung Lim, and Dong-ju Goh vs. Republic of Korea 23/03/2010

7.4 The Committee notes that the authors' refusal to be drafted for compulsory military service was a direct expression of their religious beliefs which, it is uncontested, were genuinely held and that the authors’ subsequent conviction and sentence amounted to an infringement of their freedom of conscience and a restriction on their ability to manifest their religion or belief. The Committee finds that as the State party has not demonstrated that in the present cases the restrictions in question were necessary, within the meaning of article 18, paragraph 3, it has violated article 18, paragraph 1, of the Covenant.
8. The Human Rights Committee, acting under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, concludes that the facts before the Committee reveal, in respect of each author, violations by the Republic of Korea of article 18, paragraph 1 of the Covenant.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Yeo-Bum Yoon and Mr. Myung-Jin Choi vs. Republik of Korea 23/01/2007

The Committee, therefore, considers that the State party has not demonstrated that in the present case the restriction in question is necessary, within the meaning of article 18, paragraph 3, of the Covenant.
The Human Rights Committee, acting under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, concludes that the facts as found by the Committee reveal, in respect of each author violations by the Republic of Korea of article 18, paragraph 1, of the Covenant.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Foin vs. France 09/11/1999

The Committee reiterates its position that article 26 does not prohibit all differences of treatment. Any differentiation, as the Committee has had the opportunity to state repeatedly, must however be based on reasonable and objective criteria. In this context, the Committee recognizes that the law and practice may establish differences between military and national alternative service and that such differences may, in a particular case, justify a longer period of service, provided that the differentiation is based on reasonable and objective criteria, such as the nature of the specific service concerned or the need for a special training in order to accomplish that service.

Length/terms of service Recognised
J. P. v. Canada 07/11/1991

4.2. The Committee notes that the author seeks to apply the idea of conscientious objection to the disposition by the State of the taxes it collects from persons under its jurisdiction. Although article 18 of the Covenant certainly protects the right to hold, express and disseminate opinions and convictions, including conscientious objection to military activities and expenditures, the refusal to pay taxes on grounds of conscientious objection clearly falls outside the scope of protection of this article.

4.3. The Human Rights Committee concludes that the facts as submitted do not raise issues under any of the provisions of the Covenant. Accordingly, the author's claim is incompatible with the Covenant, pursuant to article 3 of the Optional Protocol.

CO to military taxation Not recognised
L. T. K. v. Finland 09/07/1985

Although Finland recognised the right to conscientious objection at the time of the complaint, the complainant was initially not recognised as a conscientious objector, and on appeal was ordered to perform unarmed military service, which he refused. He was subsequently sentenced to 9 months' imprisonment for refusing military service.

The Human Rights Committee declared the complaint inadmissible, stating that “the Covenant does not provide for the right to conscientious objection; neither article 18 nor article 19 of the Covenant, especially taking into account paragraph 3 (c) (ii) of article 8, can be construed as implying that right.

Recognition of CO Not recognised
Muhonen v. Finland 07/04/1985

The complainant's application for recognition as conscientious objector was rejected by the Finnish authorities, and the complaint was then ordered to perform military service, which he refused. He was subsequently sentenced to 11 months' imprisonment.

The Committee declared the complaint inadmissible in relation to article 18 (right to conscientious objection), and also was “of the view that Mr. Muhonen has no right to compensation which the Finnish authorities have failed to honour and that consequently there has been no breach of article 14 (6) of the Covenant.

Recognition of CO Not recognised
Paul Westerman v. the Netherlands 13/12/1999

The case concerned a conscientious objector whose application for conscientious objection had been rejected by the Dutch authorities. He subsequently refused to put on a uniform when called up for military service. He was then sentenced to nine months' imprisonment.
The Committee observes that the authorities of the State party evaluated the facts and arguments advanced by the author in support of his claim for exemption as a conscientious objector in the light of its legal provisions in regard to conscientious objection and that these legal provisions are compatible with the provisions of article 18. (...) The Committee observes that the author failed to satisfy the authorities of the State party that he had an "insurmountable objection of conscience to military service.. because of the use of violent means” (para. 5). There is nothing in the circumstances of the case which requires the Committee to substitute its own evaluation of this issue for that of the national authorities.

Recognition of CO Not recognised
Young-kwan Kim et al. vs. Republic of Korea 15/10/2014

8. The Human Rights Committee, acting under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, concludes that the facts before the Committee reveal, with respect to each of the 50 authors, violations by the Republic of Korea of articles 9, paragraph 1; and 18, paragraph 1, of the Covenant.
9. In accordance with article 2, paragraph 3 (a), of the Covenant, the State party is under an obligation to provide the authors with an effective remedy, including expunging their criminal records and providing them with adequate compensation. The State party is under an obligation to avoid similar violations of the Covenant in the future, which includes the adoption of legislative measures guaranteeing the right to conscientious objection.

Recognition of CO Recognised

Pages

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Committee on the Rights of the Child: State Reporting Procedure

Summary:

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is a treaty-based mechanism which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (see: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm) and its Optional Protocols on the Sale of Children (OP1, see: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc-sale.htm) and on Children in Armed Conflict (OP2, see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc-conflict.htm) by State Parties. This is done through regular reports from States Parties (for States Parties to the CRC see http://treaties.un.org/Pages/Treaties.aspx?id=4&subid=A&lang=en, for OP1 see http://treaties.un.org/Pages/Treaties.aspx?id=4&subid=A&lang=en and for OP2 see http://treaties.un.org/Pages/Treaties.aspx?id=4&subid=A&lang=en). The reports are examined through a dialogue between the Committee and representatives of the State. During this dialogue Committee members may raise and child rights issues, including rights not addressed in the state reports. After the dialogue, the Committee produces Concluding Observations, which outline recommendations, and comments on the State's practice and legislation.

The Committee will only address issues related to under-18s. For States Parties to the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict, the Committee addresses issues such as recruitment of minors, or excessive military recruitment efforts in schools. Although article 14 of the Convention guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, this mechanism is less likely to be directly relevant in relation to the right to conscientious objection to military service, but can be useful to highlight issues of recruitment of minors, irregular recruitment, and military in schools.

1. Likely results from use of the mechanism

During the examination of the State's report, members of the Committee may also raise issue related to recruitment and military in schools. If the Committee comes to the conclusion that the State's practice does not comply with the CRC, it will outline this in its Concluding Observations in the form of concerns and recommendations. When the State reappears in front of the Committee, the Committee will be highly likely to ask the State about improvements it has made.
The Concluding Observations of the CRC will also form part of the OHCHR compilation for the Universal Periodic Review.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

The mechanism applies to those States who have ratified the CRC. The Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict only applies to those States who have ratified it.

3. Who can submit information?

Anyone – including NGOs and individuals.

4. When to submit information?


Information for the List of Issues

About three to four months before the session at which a State report will be examined, the pre-sessional working group of the Committee convenes a private meeting with UN agencies and bodies, NGOs and other competent bodies such as national human rights and youth organisations, which have submitted additional information to the Committee. This discussion leads to the List of Issues, which will be sent to the State, who will be requested to provide answers in writing in advance of the session.
It is therefore important that additional information is provided well in advance of the session, and it is recommended to submit a report no later than six month before.

Information for standard reporting

In their report, NGOs should refer to the State's reports (there are usually separate reports for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and each Optional Protocol), and highlight errors and omissions in the information provided by the State. The State reports are public and accessible online at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/sessions.htm.

Once the State report is available, check online when the report is likely to be considered: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/sessions.htm.

5. Any special advice for making a submission to this mechanism?

Structure of the Report

The NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (NGO Group) has published detailed guides on reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. These can be found at:

Introduction

The introduction should include a presentation of the NGO (including the contact details) submitting the report and relevant information about the general context, such as historical context, specific situations (e.g. armed conflict or socio-economic context), without repeating information provided in the State report.

Substantive part

It can be advisable that the NGO report follows the structure of the State report, in the form of a section-by-section analysis of the report. The report should comment on and correct information provided by the State, and explain the position of the NGO.

It is important to analyse the extent to which law, policy and practice of the State comply or not with the provisions of the Optional Protocol. While State reports are often very legalistic, an NGO report should provide information on the practical implementation or lack thereof. It should also reflect on the experience of children/under-18s throughout the country, including differences in legislation, administration of services, culture and environment of different jurisdictions.

It is always a good idea to refer to previous Concluding Observations of the Committee, and their implementation or lack thereof.

Conclusions and recommendations

It can be a good idea to include a list of questions the NGO wants the Committee to ask to the Government. Some NGOs include a list of concrete recommendations, but this is a matter of political approach.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

Following the submission of the periodic or initial State report, which will be published on the website of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/sessions.htm), NGOs have the opportunity to submit additional information or their own reports. This should usually be done between six months and two years before the examination of a State's report.

About three to four months before the examination of the State report a meeting of a pre-sessional working group of the Committee on the Rights of the Child will draw up a List of Issues (see under 4.). States might choose to provide written answers to questions raised in the List of Issues in advance of the examination of the report.

The examination of the State's report happens in form of a dialogue between the members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the delegation of the State concerned. Following the session, the Committee will draw of its Concluding Observations, which also include recommendations.

7. History of the use of the mechanism

This mechanisms has not been used for conscientious objection to military service itself, but has been used successfully to highlight issues of recruitment of under-18s, including aggressive recruitment by Armed Forces in schools.

Contact Details: 
Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Human Rights Treaties Division (HRTD) Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Palais Wilson - 52, rue des Pâquis CH-1201 Geneva (Switzerland) Tel.: +41 22 917 91 41 Fax: +41 22 917 90 08 E-mail: crc@ohchr.org
Further Reading: 
Concluding Observations
Title Date
Concluding Observations: Australia 11/07/2012

17. The Committee notes that the age of voluntary recruitment into the ADF is 17 years.
18. In order to promote and strengthen the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard, the Committee encourages the State party to review and raise the minimum age of voluntary recruitment into the ADF to 18 years of age.(...)
20. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Review the operations of its cadet scheme to ensure that activities in such programmes are age appropriate, particularly with respect to military-like activities, and establish clear guidelines on the age requirement for such activities, taking due consideration of the mental and physical effects of such activities on the child;
(b) Ensure effective and independent monitoring of the cadet scheme to safeguard the rights and welfare of the child enrolled in the cadet forces and ensure that children, parents and other groups are adequately informed about the recruitment process and are able to present concerns or complaints;
(c) Prohibit the handling and use of firearms and other explosives for all children under the age of 18 years in line with the spirit of the Optional Protocol;
(d) Ensure that young persons from different linguistic backgrounds and/or from marginalized populations are not overly targeted for recruitment and put in place measures for informed consent;
(e) Include information on how the activities of the cadet forces fit with the aims of education, as recognized in article 29 of the Convention and in the Committee’s general comment No. 1 (2001) on the aims of education.

Concluding Observations: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 17/10/2008

The Committee encourages the State party to consider reviewing its position and raise the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years in order to promote the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard.(...)
15. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Reconsider its active policy of recruitment of children into the armed forces and ensure that it does not occur in a manner which specifically targets ethnic minorities and children of low-income families;
(b) Ensure that parents are included from the outset and during the entire process of recruitment and enlistment.

Concluding Observations: United States of America 25/06/2008

13. The Committee, while taking note of the amended policy of the State party to avoid direct participation in hostilities of members of the armed forces who are under 18 years, is nevertheless concerned that the State party failed to prevent the deployment of volunteer recruits below the age of 18 years to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
14. The Committee recommends the State party ensure that its policy and practice on deployment is consistent with the provisions of the Optional Protocol. (…)
16. The Committee encourages the State party to review and raise the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years in order to promote and strengthen the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard.
17. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that recruitment does not occur in a manner which specifically targets racial and ethnic minorities and children of low-income families and other vulnerable socio-economic groups. The Committee underlines the importance that voluntary recruits under the age of 18 are adequately informed of their rights, including the possibility of withdrawing from enlistment through the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).
18. The Committee furthermore recommends that the content of recruitment campaigns be closely monitored and that any reported irregularity or misconduct by recruiters should be investigated and, when required, sanctioned. In order to reduce the risk of recruiter misconduct, the Committee recommends the State party to carefully consider the impact quotas for voluntary recruits have on the behaviour of recruiters. Finally, the Committee recommends the State party to amend the No Child Left Behind Act (20 U.S.C., sect. 7908) in order to ensure that it is not used for recruitment purposes in a manner that violates the children’s right to privacy or the rights of parents and legal guardians. The Committee also recommends the State party to ensure that all parents are adequately informed about the recruitment process and aware of their right to request that schools withhold information from recruiters unless the parents’ prior consent has been obtained. (…)
20. The Committee recommends the State party ensure that any military training for children take into account human rights principles and that the educational content be periodically monitored by the federal Department of Education. The State party should seek to avoid military-type training for young children.

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Committee on the Rights of the Child: Optional Protocol on Communications

Summary

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure from 19 December 2011 (see http://treaties.un.org/doc/source/signature/2012/CTC_4-11d.pdf) establishes an individual complaints mechanism, allowing individuals to complain to the Committee on the Rights of the Child about a violation of the Convention or any one of the Optional Protocols to which the State is a party. Before submitting a complaint, domestic remedies have to be exhausted, unless these would be unreasonably prolonged or not effective. The complaint should also not have been submitted to any other procedure of international investigation or settlement.

If the Committee finds that a State Party has failed in its obligations under the CRC or its Optional Protocols, it will require that the violation be remedied and ask the State Party to provide follow-up information in this regard. The decisions of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and its follow-up activities are made public and are included in the Committee' Annual Report to the General Assembly.

At the time of writing (August 2012), the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure was not yet in force, as it had not yet been ratified by more than 10 States. Check for the status of ratification at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11-...

1. Likely result from use of the mechanism

The Committee on the Rights of the Child will either declare the case inadmissible, or publish its views on the case if it finds on a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child or one of the Optional Protocols. If a violation is found, the Committee may recommend that the State concerned make amends, or rectify the situation.
The Committee might also attempt to reach a friendly settlement between the State Party and the victim or victims.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

This mechanism applies to States parties to the CRC which have also signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure. Check for the status of ratification at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11-....
A complaint can be brought against any State which had jurisdiction over the victim at the moment of the violation, and which has at the same time ratified the Optional Protocol.

3. Who can submit information?

Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure the Committee can receive individual Communications (complaints) from any individual under the jurisdiction of a State that is party to the Optional Protocol who claims that his or her rights under the Convention have been violated by the State Party.
If you wish to file a complaint on behalf of someone else or a group, you must submit proof of consent from each of the victims you wish to represent in writing, or proof why they are incapable of giving such consent.

4. When to submit information?

According to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure, complaints have to be submitted within one year of exhaustion of domestic remedies, except where it can be demonstrated that it had not been possible to submit the communication within the time limit.

5. Special rules of procedure or advice on making a submission

At the time of writing, the Committee had not yet adopted rules of procedure for submitting complaints (communications) under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure. Please check the website of the Committee at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/sessions.htm for updates.

The following is therefore adapted from the guidelines for submissions to the Human Rights Committee:

How to write a complaint:

The complaint mechanisms are designed to be simple and accessible to all. You do not need to be a lawyer or even familiar with legal and technical terms to bring a complaint to a Committee.

For a complaint to be admissible, it needs to meet the following requirements:

  • It has to be submitted by the individual whose rights have been violated, or with the written consent of the individual. Only in exceptional cases, where the individual concerned is unable to give consent, this requirement may be ignored. Anonymous complaints will not be considered.
  • Domestic remedies need to have been exhausted, which means all domestic appeal procedures need to have been tried. However, if you can demonstrate that local remedies are not effective (for example, because the highest court of the country already ruled on a very similar case), not available, or unduly prolonged, this requirement may be ignored.
  • Not be under consideration by another international investigation or settlement procedure.

A complaint, sometimes also called a “communication” or a “petition” need not take any particular form. However, it needs to be in writing and signed (which means email complaints will not be considered). It should provide basic personal information - your name, nationality and date of birth - and specify the State party against which your complaint is directed.

A complaint needs to include – preferably in chronological order – all the facts on which your claim is based, and all efforts that have been made to exhaust domestic remedies (include copies of relevant court decisions and a summary in one of the working languages of the Committee).

It is useful to quote the relevant treaty or Optional Protocol articles which correspond to your case. It should be explained how the facts of the case disclose a violation of those articles.

Emergency procedures:

If there is a fear of irreparable harm (for example in cases of imminent execution or deportation to torture) before the Committee has examined the case, it is possible to request an intervention by the committee to stop an imminent action (or omission) by a State, which may cause such harm.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

As the Optional Protocol was not yet in force at the time of writing, there is presently no experience with complaints to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

7. History of the use of the mechanism

As the Optional Protocol was not yet in force at the time of writing, it could not be used yet.

Contact Details: 
Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Human Rights Treaties Division (HRTD) Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Palais Wilson - 52, rue des Pâquis CH-1201 Geneva (Switzerland) Tel.: +41 22 917 91 41 Fax: +41 22 917 90 08 E-mail: crc@ohchr.org
Views (jurisprudence)

None

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Other Treaty Bodies

Apart from the Human Rights Committee, the other treaty bodies, which include the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination (CERD) and the Committee Against Torture (CAT) are not likely to be the first port of call for a conscientious objector. The more obvious mechanisms for conscientious objectors to military service are the Human Rights Committee and the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, such as thematic and country-specific rapporteurs.

Like the Human Rights Committee, each treaty body oversees the implementation of a convention. The outcomes from these treaty bodies are similar to those of the Human Rights Committee. Both CERD and CAT have an optional individual communications procedure, enabling the committees to consider individual cases as well as State practice and legislation. However, these procedures are very underused.

When you might use other treaty bodies

If you find that the State who is failing to recognise rights associated with conscientious objection is not a party to the ICCPR but is a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) or the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), you may wish to pursue your case or country situation under these conventions. All treaty bodies receive periodic reports from states party to the treaty. Rules of procedure are similar to those for the Human Rights Committee. You should read the relevant conventions in full to see if the State Party is failing to respect these rights. These are available on the web at http://www.ohchr.org.

Sources

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr-one.htm
http://treaties.un.org/Pages/Treaties.aspx?id=4&subid=A&lang=en

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

Summary

In 2006 the The United Nations Human Rights Council replaced the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN human rights system made up of 47 States elected by the UN General Assembly responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. Its main purpose is addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them. Its mandate was established by General Assembly resolution 60/251 from 15 March 2006.
The Council meets in regular session three times annually and in special session as needed, and reports to the General Assembly.

In 2007 the Council adopted its “Institution-building package” which established a system of four subsidiary mechanisms, of which the following two are most relevant for NGOs and individuals working on conscientious objection to military service:

  • The Universal Periodic Review mechanism assesses the human rights situations in all 192 UN Member States.
  • The UN Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the Council.

For a list of all member states please go to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/membership.htm

On 5 July 2012, during its 20th session, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution on conscientious objection to military service, “recalling all previous relevant resolutions and decisions, including Human Rights Council decision 2/102 of 6 October 2006, and Commission on Human Rights resolutions 2004/35 of 19 April 2004 and 1998/77 of 22 April 1998, in which the Commission recognized the right of everyone to have conscientious objection 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 and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and general comment No. 22 (1993) of the Human Rights Committee”.

Interpretations

Title Date
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution A/HRC/RES/20/2) 05/07/2012

recalling all previous relevant resolutions and decisions, including Human Rights Council decision 2/102 of 6 October 2006, and Commission on Human Rights resolutions 2004/35 of 19 April 2004 and 1998/77 of 22 April 1998, in which the Commission recognized the right of everyone to have conscientious objection 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 and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and general comment No. 22 (1993) of the Human Rights Committee”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
CO to military taxation Neutral
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2004/35) 19/04/2004

The resolution recalled all previous resolutions of the Human Rights Commission and especially “calls upon States that have not yet done so to review their current laws and practices in relation to conscientious objection to military service in the light of its resolution 1998/77, taking account of the information contained in the report”;
In addition, it “encourages States, as part of post‑conflict peace‑building, to consider granting, and effectively implementing, amnesties and restitution of rights, in law and practice, for those who have refused to undertake military service on grounds of conscientious objection”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2002/45) 23/04/2002

The resolution recalls the previous resolutions of the Human Rights Commission regarding conscientious objections to military service and especially takes “note of recommendation 2 made by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its report (see E/CN.4/2001/14, chap. IV, sect. B), aimed at preventing the judicial system of States from being used to force conscientious objectors to change their convictions”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2000/34) 20/04/2000

The resolution recalls the previous resolutions of the Human Rights Commission on the subject of conscientious objection to military service and “calls upon States to review their current laws and practices in relation to conscientious objection to military service in the light of its resolution 1998/77”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1998/77) 22/04/1998

The resolution recalls the early resolutions of the Human Rights Commission on the subject of conscientious objection to military service, and highlights:

  • article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right of everyone to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”;
  • impartial decision making on applications for conscientious objection and the “requirement not to discriminate between conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs”;
  • that “States should (...) refrain from subjecting conscientious objectors to imprisonment and to repeated punishment for failure to perform military service, and (...) that no one shall be liable or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country”;
  • that States, in their law and practice, must not discriminate against conscientious objectors in relation to their terms or conditions of service, or any economic, social, cultural, civil or political rights”;
  • asylum for “conscientious objectors compelled to leave their country of origin because they fear persecution owing to their refusal to perform military service when there is no provision, or no adequate provision, for conscientious objection to military service”.
Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1995/83) 08/03/1995

Recalling its earlier resolutions, the Commission “draws attention to 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 “affirms that persons performing military service should not be excluded from the right to have conscientious objections to military service”.

The Commission calls on States to introduce “within the framework of their national legal system, independent and impartial decision-making bodies with the task of determining whether a conscientious objection is valid in a specific case”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (resolution 1993/84) 10/03/1993

The Commission recalls its previous resolutions on the subject and “appeals to States, if they have not already done so, to enact legislation and to take measures aimed at exemption from military service on the basis of a genuinely held conscientious objection to armed service”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1991/65) 06/03/1991

The Commission reaffirms “its resolution 1989/59 adopted without a vote on 8 March 1989”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1989/59) 08/03/1989

The Commission “appeals to States to enact legislation and to take measures aimed at exemption from military service on the basis of a genuinely held conscientious objection to armed service”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service. (Resolution 1987/46) 10/03/1987

The Commission recognised “that conscientious objection to military service derives from principles and reasons of conscience, including profound convictions, arising from religious, ethical, moral or similar motives”, and appealed “to States to recognize that conscientious objection to military service should be considered a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

It recommended “to States with a system of compulsory military service, where such provision has not already been made, that they consider introducing various forms of alternative service for conscientious objectors which are compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection, bearing in mind the experience of some States in this respect, and that they refrain from subjecting such persons to imprisonment”.

Recognition of CO Recognised

Pages

Case law

None

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Summary

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was established along with the Human Rights Council by resolution 60/251 in 2006 and is a unique mechanism of the United Nations human rights system which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States once every 4½ years, based on the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and any other human rights instruments to which the State under review is a party, and voluntary pledges and commitments made by the State. During the review process, other States examine the human rights practice of a State under review based on information provided by the State, a compilation of relevant UN documents prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) and information provided by other stakeholders, including NGOs (compiled by the OHCHR).

Other states may ask questions and make recommendations, which the State under review may accept or reject. The result of this review is reflected in an “outcome report” listing the recommendations made to the State under review. Until the next due review, the State under review has now four years time to implement the accepted recommendations and fulfil its voluntary pledges.

The third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review started at the 27th session (1st-12th May 2017), and will run until November 2021. Find the full calendar here: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/UPR/Calendar3rdCycle.doc (a download will begin).

Information, including a timetable of the current review cycle, is available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.

1. Likely results from use of mechanism

As this is an inter-governmental procedure, only States can ask questions or make recommendations to the State under review. NGOs can not intervene directly, but have to get a State to ask a question or to make a recommendation to the State under review. The State under review then can either accept or reject a recommendation.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

This mechanism applies to all member states of the United Nations.

3. Who can submit information?

The review at the Working Group is based on three sources of information:

  • Information prepared by the State under Review on its human rights situation. This can take the form of a national report no longer than 20 pages.
  • A compilation of “information contained in the reports of treaty bodies, special procedures, including observations and comments by the State concerned, and other relevant official United Nations documents, which shall not exceed ten pages” (Resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1). It can include for example Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee or the Committee on the Rights of the Child, reports by Special Rapporteurs or UN Country teams, etc. This compilation is prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR).
  • Other “credible and reliable information” provided by “other relevant stakeholders” (including NGOs), which are summarised by the Office of the High Commissioner in a document not exceeding ten pages (Resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1).

These three documents are usually available on the OHCHR website ten weeks before the start of the UPR working group.

4. When to submit information?

4. When to submit information?
The Universal Periodic Review Working Group holds three sessions per year dedicated to 14 states each, until the total of all UN members has been reviewed.


According to resolution “A/HRC/RES/5/1, “States are encouraged to prepare the information through a broad consultation process at the national level with all relevant stakeholders”. If your State is following this procedure, it might be a good idea to get involved in the process, and to lobby for inclusion of the issue of conscientious objection in the State's report. Often, coalitions of national NGOs join forces to submit a joint report. If this is the case, it can be advisable to take part in such a coalition, to make sure that the issue of conscientious objection to military service is included in a broader NGO report. Such a national consultation process is likely to take place about one year before the review.

8-6 months before the review:: The deadline for the submission of information by NGOs to the OHCHR is about six to eight months before the session. Submissions must be submitted and received by midnight Geneva time (CET) on the day of the given deadline and late submissions are not considered.

About six weeks before the session of each Working Group, the NGO UPR-Info is holding public sessions for NGOs to suggest questions and recommendations. All government delegations are invited to these sessions, and the timing should provide enough time for the delegations to consult with their respective government.
NGOs interested in taking part should contact:
UPR Info
Avenue du Mail 14
1205 Geneva, Switzerland
Phone: + 41 22 321 77 70
Fax: + 41 22 321 77 71
Email: info@upr-info.org

As the review itself is an inter-governmental procedure, it is then important to lobby other governments to raise questions and make recommendations to the State under review, either via other States' embassies in your country, or via their permanent missions at the UN in Geneva. Please get in touch if you have specific issues to raise in relation to conscientious objection to military service.

During the review:: The review itself takes place in a Working Group of the Human Rights Council, which is composed of all UN member States and chaired by the President of the Council. NGOs in consultative status can attend but not take the floor during the review.
The review is prepared by a troika, which is selected by the drawing of lots among members of the Human Rights Council and from different regional groups. The troika receives the written questions and issues raised by States and relays them to the State under review. During the review itself, the members of the troika do not have any specific role. After the review, the troika is responsible for preparing a report of the Working Group, with the involvement of the State under review and assistance by the OHCHR. One of the members of the troika will introduce the report before its adoption at the Working Group.

3-4 months after the review: The report of the Working Group is adopted by consensus at a plenary session of the Human Rights Council. During this session, NGOs are allocated a total of 20 minutes for oral statement after the presentations of the State under Review and other States (20min each) and before the outcome report is adopted. Only NGOs in consultative status are allowed to make an oral statement.
It is also possible to write a statement as not every NGO can be considered and coalitions of NGOs are generally favoured. These written statements will become official United Nations documents but they have however less impact than an oral statement. There is a deadline of usually two weeks before begin of the session for written statements, and there are very detailed technical instructions for submissions of statements, which have to be submitted by email.

For a webcast of the interactive dialogues please visit: http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=080507.

5. Special rules of procedure or advice for making a submission?

As stated in point 3.) The OHCHR asks NGOs to limit their official submission to a five page (2815 words) document, to which other information can be attached. When the information is submitted by a large coalition of NGOs, the official submission can reach ten pages (5630 words). For ease of reference, paragraphs and pages should be numbered. NGOs need to submit their report as a Microsoft Word document by email, and not in any other file format (no PDF), nor on paper.

As of the third cycle of the UPR, the OHCHR has devised 'Matrices of recommendations of countries to be reviewed during the 3rd cycle of the UPR' . The purpose of the matrices is to collect precise and specific information on the level of implementation, in the State under review, of both the accepted and noted recommendations from their previous reviews. Stakeholders are now also encouraged to submit their completed country-specific matrix, alongside their written submissions. NGOs are encouraged to download their country matrix now available here http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/NgosNhris.aspx, and should complete the final column in the table. The matrix provides a list of received recommendations, clustered by theme, and then allows space for "Assessment/comments on level of implementation".

This is an example of a matrix here https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/matrix_argentina.png

The second and subsequent cycles of the UPR will focus on the recommendations accepted by the State under review during previous review cycles, and on the development of the human rights situation in the State since the last review. However, any other issues that come within the scope of the Universal Periodic Review can also be raised.

The OHCHR has issues “technical guidelines” for National Human Rights Institutions and NGOs, which they need to follow when submitting information to the UPR. The guidelines for the second cycle (2017-2021) can be found at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/UPR/TechnicalGuidelines3rdCycle.... (a download will begin).

Submissions should be sent to through the "On-line UPR submissions registration system" to register contributions for the UPR documentation from UN entities and stakeholders available in the following link: https://uprdoc.ohchr.org. Stakeholders should follow the "Guidelines for the Use of the On-Line UPR Submissions Registration System" available here www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/UPR/How-to-GuideUPR_Online_Registration.... Should organizations encounter technical problems using the Online system, please contact the UPR Submissions Helpdesk through the following email address: uprsubmissions@ohchr.org.

For help and questions relating to the Universal Periodic Review, the website of UPR-Info at http://upr-info.org has a wealth of advice and information.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

If the submission complies with the technical guidelines, it will be made available on the OHCHR website ten weeks before the start of the UPR working group. Information contained in the submission will hopefully also be included in the OHCHR compilation of information provided by “other relevant stakeholders”.

Following-up

After the review, it is important to follow-up on the recommendations accepted by the State, and to monitor their implementation.

States are encouraged to submit a mid-term report on the implementation of UPR recommendation to the Human Rights Council. This provides a further opportunity for lobbying, and NGOs in consultative status can also submit comments in form of a written statement to the Human Rights Council.

7. History of the use of the mechanism.

The issue of conscientious objection was brought up several times during the first cycle of the UPR, for example during the review of Colombia in 2009. Resolution: A/HRC/10/82

The OHCHR has developed a special database for the documentation related to the universal periodic review at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/Documentation.aspx.

Contact Details: 
OHCHR address: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)  Email: uprsubmissions@ohchr.org http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/ContactUs.aspx
Further Reading: 

Interpretations

Title Date
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution A/HRC/RES/20/2) 05/07/2012

recalling all previous relevant resolutions and decisions, including Human Rights Council decision 2/102 of 6 October 2006, and Commission on Human Rights resolutions 2004/35 of 19 April 2004 and 1998/77 of 22 April 1998, in which the Commission recognized the right of everyone to have conscientious objection 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 and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and general comment No. 22 (1993) of the Human Rights Committee”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
CO to military taxation Neutral
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2004/35) 19/04/2004

The resolution recalled all previous resolutions of the Human Rights Commission and especially “calls upon States that have not yet done so to review their current laws and practices in relation to conscientious objection to military service in the light of its resolution 1998/77, taking account of the information contained in the report”;
In addition, it “encourages States, as part of post‑conflict peace‑building, to consider granting, and effectively implementing, amnesties and restitution of rights, in law and practice, for those who have refused to undertake military service on grounds of conscientious objection”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2002/45) 23/04/2002

The resolution recalls the previous resolutions of the Human Rights Commission regarding conscientious objections to military service and especially takes “note of recommendation 2 made by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its report (see E/CN.4/2001/14, chap. IV, sect. B), aimed at preventing the judicial system of States from being used to force conscientious objectors to change their convictions”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2000/34) 20/04/2000

The resolution recalls the previous resolutions of the Human Rights Commission on the subject of conscientious objection to military service and “calls upon States to review their current laws and practices in relation to conscientious objection to military service in the light of its resolution 1998/77”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1998/77) 22/04/1998

The resolution recalls the early resolutions of the Human Rights Commission on the subject of conscientious objection to military service, and highlights:

  • article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right of everyone to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”;
  • impartial decision making on applications for conscientious objection and the “requirement not to discriminate between conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs”;
  • that “States should (...) refrain from subjecting conscientious objectors to imprisonment and to repeated punishment for failure to perform military service, and (...) that no one shall be liable or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country”;
  • that States, in their law and practice, must not discriminate against conscientious objectors in relation to their terms or conditions of service, or any economic, social, cultural, civil or political rights”;
  • asylum for “conscientious objectors compelled to leave their country of origin because they fear persecution owing to their refusal to perform military service when there is no provision, or no adequate provision, for conscientious objection to military service”.
Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1995/83) 08/03/1995

Recalling its earlier resolutions, the Commission “draws attention to 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 “affirms that persons performing military service should not be excluded from the right to have conscientious objections to military service”.

The Commission calls on States to introduce “within the framework of their national legal system, independent and impartial decision-making bodies with the task of determining whether a conscientious objection is valid in a specific case”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (resolution 1993/84) 10/03/1993

The Commission recalls its previous resolutions on the subject and “appeals to States, if they have not already done so, to enact legislation and to take measures aimed at exemption from military service on the basis of a genuinely held conscientious objection to armed service”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1991/65) 06/03/1991

The Commission reaffirms “its resolution 1989/59 adopted without a vote on 8 March 1989”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1989/59) 08/03/1989

The Commission “appeals to States to enact legislation and to take measures aimed at exemption from military service on the basis of a genuinely held conscientious objection to armed service”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service. (Resolution 1987/46) 10/03/1987

The Commission recognised “that conscientious objection to military service derives from principles and reasons of conscience, including profound convictions, arising from religious, ethical, moral or similar motives”, and appealed “to States to recognize that conscientious objection to military service should be considered a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

It recommended “to States with a system of compulsory military service, where such provision has not already been made, that they consider introducing various forms of alternative service for conscientious objectors which are compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection, bearing in mind the experience of some States in this respect, and that they refrain from subjecting such persons to imprisonment”.

Recognition of CO Recognised

Pages

Recommendations and Commitments
Title Date
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Paraguay 28/03/2011

44. Ghana asked about measures taken to respond to requests made by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations and the Human Rights Committee to enforce the legislation prohibiting the recruitment of children by the military. It referred to the gap that existed between men and women’s income at almost all levels, despite legal provisions on equal remuneration. Ghana made recommendations. (…)

II. Conclusions and/or recommendations (...)
85. The following recommendations enjoy the support of Paraguay which considers that they are already implemented or in the process of implementation: (...)
85.35. Ensure the effective exercise of the right to conscientious objection and ensure that no minor (under 18) is recruited into the Armed Forces (Slovenia);
85.36. Implement effectively the legislation prohibiting the forced military recruitment of children under the age of 18 (Ghana);
85.37. Comply with the legislation prohibiting the forced military recruitment of children (Hungary);
85.38. Put in place measures to effectively prevent underage military recruitment (Japan);

Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Estonia 28/03/2011

58. Slovakia (...) noted the (...) lack of clear grounds for accepting or rejecting an application for an alternative to military service. Slovakia made recommendations. (…)

II. Conclusions and/or recommendations
77. The recommendations formulated during the interactive dialogue and listed below have been examined by and enjoy the support of Estonia. (...)
77.77. Ensure that the right of conscientious objection to military service is upheld, and clarify the grounds for acceptance or rejection of such claims (Slovakia);

Recognition of CO Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Austria 01/06/2011

93.The following recommendations will be examined by Austria which will provide responses in due time, but no later than the seventeenth session of the Human Rights Council in June 2011:
93.47. Raise the age for all enrolments into armed forces to the age of at least 18 years in line with the CRC recommendation (Ghana, Slovakia);

"93.47 Austria does not accept the recommendation.
The option of performing the military service starting at the age of 17 is based solely on the voluntary enlistment of the person concerned and requires the consent of his legal guardian. Neither the direct participation in combat nor the voluntary enlistment for military service in international operations is admissible. Under these provisions, full respect of the entire Convention on the Rights of the Child including its Optional Protocol is guaranteed.

Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Georgia 16/03/2011

37. Slovenia took note of the concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee on the issue of conscientious objectors, in parti­cular, the differences between the length of non-military alternative service and military service and asked what steps had been taken to address that difference. Slovenia made recommendations. (...)

II. Conclusions and/or recommendations
105. The recommendations formulated during the interactive dialogue and listed below have been examined by Georgia enjoy the support of Georgia: (...)
105.63. Reduce the length of alternative service for conscientious objectors so that it is the same length as the military service (Slovenia);

Length/terms of service Recognised
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Eritrea 08/03/2010

Recommendations were made on the indefinite prolongation of the military service of conscripts (by Canada (58) and the United Kingdom (60)), the non-recognition of the right of conscientious objection to military service (mentioned by Slovenia (59), and Argentina (57)), and abuses within the National Service programme (referred to by the USA (62) and the United Kingdom (61)
Also that it take effective measures to protect under-18s from recruitment, (by Germany (56), Argentina (57), the United Kingdom (61), the USA(62), Poland (63) and Ghana (64)) (http://wri-irg.org)/node/20858

Eritrea rejected all recommendations related to military service, possibly with the exception of those relating to sexual exploitation and violence against women in the Armed Forces.

Recognition of CO Not recognised
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Uzbekistan 13/03/2009

Slovenia asked (a) what steps the Government was taking to ensure that all individuals with a conscientious objection to military service are able to exercise this right and not only those belonging to recognized religious groups whose beliefs require such refusal; (...) Slovenia recommended that Uzbekistan (d) ensure that conscien­tious objection to military service is available to individuals irrespec­tive of their religion or belief, that the process for consideration applications is under civilian control and to provide a non-punitive civilian alternative service; (b) respond soon to these requests (of special procedures to visit the country) in a positive way.
Uzbekistan indicated indicated that it would study the conformity of the (...) recommendations with the national legislation.” (http://wri-irg.org/node/20856)

17. According to the article 22, paragraph 1, page 1 of the Law “On general military duty and military service” recruits are released from military duty and military service in a mobilization invocatory reserve during the peacetime:
(a) If recognized unfit for military service due to health problems;
(b) If one of near relatives (brother, sister) has died during the military service;
(c) If he/she has a holy order in one of the registered religious organizations.
18. According to the article 37, paragraph 2 of above-mentioned Law, citizens at the age from 18 to 27, listed in military registry and subject to draft, have the right to choose alternative service if they are members of registered religious organizations and there dogma prohibits the use of weapons and service in the army.

Recognition of CO Neutral
Discrimination Neutral
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Israel 19/03/2009

"Slovenia noted with concern the information in the OHCHR compi­lation and stakeholders’ reports on the refusal to the right to con­scien­tious objection, part of the right to freedom of thought, con­scien­ce and religion, and on imprisonment in this regard. It asked if Israel intended to review this, and recommended ceasing impriso­ning conscientious objectors and considering granting the right to conscientious objection to serve instead with a civilian body independent of the military." (http://wri-irg.org/node/20850)

"461. Israel had also taken upon itself to promote the following items from the Council's recommendations:" (...)
"(h) Granting the right to those who object to serve in the army on conscientious grounds to serve instead with a civilian body inde­pendent of the military, such as in the form of the newly established and strengthened Public Commission for National Civil Service;
"

Recognition of CO Recognised
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Colombia 13/01/2009

Slovenia recommended that Colombia should recognise the right of conscientious objection to military service “in law and practice and ensure that recruitment methods allow it (and) guarantee that conscientious objectors are able to opt for alternative service, the duration of which would not have punitive effects.” (http://wri-irg.org/node/20848)

Colombia rejected this recommendation, arguing that “The Colombian Constitution and the legal framework establish that all citizens have the obligation to enrol in the military service when the circumstances so require to defend the National sovereignty and the public institutions and to provide security conditions for all citizens. This obligation has been upheld on several occasions by the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court.

Recognition of CO Not recognised
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Serbia 18/03/2009

During the Universal Periodic Review the question of arrangements for conscientious objectors to military service was raised by both the Russian Federation and Slovenia. Replying to the Russian Federation's question in the December 2008 Working Group, Serbia reported: “According to the Constitution, conscientious objectors could serve their military duty without the obligation to carry weapons. There were 1,730 institutions and organizations for civil service. The civil service lasted nine months and 49 per cent of conscripts had opted for it.
Slovenia made a number of specific recommendations:
that Serbia restore civilian control to decision-making in relation to applications for conscientious objection to military service, to extend the time limit for applications to be made, remove the exclusion of all those who have ever held a firearms licence from being recognized as conscientious objectors, and equalize the length of alternative and military service.” (http://wri-irg.org/node/20852)

Serbia's response to these recommendations:
Certain proposals and recommendations of the Republic of Slovenia have already been incorporated into the Draft Law on Civilian Service, which is in parliamentary procedure. With the passage of that law, civil control regarding civilian service would be laid out in detail, so that the members of the Appeals Commission shall not be members of the Ministry of Defense, except for the Commission president. This will reduce the possibilities of abuse on the part of the First Instance Commissions and organizations or institutions, thereby ensuring total civil control over civilian service.”
“The equalization of military and civilian service is not possible, because a soldier serving armed military duty spends an uninter­rupted six months in his unit, while a person in civilian service spends eight hours in his assigned organization or institution, is free on weekends and has the right to regular and awarded leave. The proposal “to invalidate the exception of those who have held weapon permits from the right to conscientious objection” is in absolute collision with the arguments of the institution of conscientious objection and, thus, cannot be accepted.

Length/terms of service Not recognised
Discrimination Not recognised
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodical Review: Turkmenistan 19/03/2009

Slovenia enquired about the Government’s recognition of conscientious objection to military service. It recommended that Turkmenistan recognize this and stop prosecuting, imprisoning and repeatedly punishing conscientious objectors. (...)” (http://wri-irg.org/node/20854)

555. Concerning the recommendation to recognize conscientious objection to military service and with respect to recognizing the right of persons renouncing military service on religious grounds, Turkmenistan provided information that conditions existed that allowed for guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion and the fulfilment of military duty by serving in non-military structures of the Ministry of Defence, such as medical and construction units. Turkmenistan also indicated that the process of improving the legislation on religious organizations was ongoing.

Recognition of CO Neutral
Repeated punishment Neutral

Pages

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Human Rights Council Special Procedures

Summary

“Special procedures” is the name given to the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council to monitor human rights violations in specific countries or examine global human rights issues. There are basically two different mandates:

The principal functions of Special Procedures are:

  • analysing the relevant thematic issue or country situation, including visits to countries;
  • advising on the measures which should be taken by the relevant Government(s) or other actors;
  • alerting the UN agencies, in particular the Human Rights Council, and the public to the need to address specific situations and issues;
  • advocating on behalf of victims of human rights violations through measures such as urgent action and by calling upon States to respond to specific allegations and provide redress;
  • activating and mobilising the international and national communities and the Human Rights Council to address particular human rights issues, and to encourage cooperation among Governments, civil society, and inter-governmental organisations;
  • following up on recommendations

In individual cases they can send so called communications (urgent appeals and letters of allegation) on alleged violations of human rights to the Governments concerned.
They present their annual reports, as well as reports on country visits and thematic studies to the Human Rights Council and selected documents to the General Assembly. All special procedures jointly produce a communications report for each session of the Human Rights Council, which includes letters of allegation and urgent appeals, and responses received from governments.

1. Likely results from use of mechanism

In individual cases, the mandate holder may send either an urgent appeal or a letter of allegation (of human rights violations) to the Government of the state concerned. Depending on the response received from the Government, the mandate holder will decide on further steps to take.
As a general rule, the existence and content of both urgent appeals and letters of allegation remain confidential until a summary of such communications and the replies received from the State concerned are included in the joint communications report of all special procedures to the Human Rights Council. The joint communications report also includes links to the original urgent appeal or letter of allegation, and – if available – to the Government's response.

The Special Procedures can be used for complaints about state law and practice. The mandate holder may raise these issues as and when he or she thinks it appropriate.
The mandate holders of the Special Procedures conduct country visits, during which they meet with representatives of the State, but also with NGOs. The Special procedures can only visit countries which have agreed to their request for invitation. Some countries have issued "standing invitations", which means that they are, in principle, prepared to receive a visit from any special procedures mandate holder. As of the end of December 2011, 90 States had extended standing invitations to the special procedures. After their visits, special procedures' mandate-holders issue a mission report containing their findings and recommendations.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

All states

3. Who can submit information?

Everybody.

4. When should information be submitted?

Information on individual cases should be submitted as soon as possible, especially in cases where an urgent action by the Special Procedure is desired.
For information on State law and practice information can be submitted at any time. It is also advisable to watch out for visits of a relevant Special Procedure to your country, and to submit information timely before a scheduled visit, and to attempt to schedule a meeting during the visit. A coalition of NGOs might have a higher chance to have a meeting during a country visit than an individual NGO so far unknown to the Special Procedure.

5. Are there any special rules of procedure?

Information can be submitted by post or electronically, but anonymous submissions will not be considered.
In individual cases, submissions to the Special Procedures are not a quasi-judicial procedure, which means that they are not meant to replace national or international legal procedures. Therefore, there is no need for domestic remedies to be exhausted.
Allegations of human rights violations should contain clear and concise details of the details of the case, the name and other identifying information regarding the individual victim(s), information as to the circumstances including – if available – date and place of incidents and alleged perpetrators, suspected motives, and any steps already taken at the national, regional or international level regarding the case(s).

6. What happens to a submission (how long will it take)?

Mandate holders of the Special Procedures may acknowledge receipt of information from individuals and organisations, but they often do not do so. They are also not required to inform those who provide information about any subsequent measures they have taken – and they often don't.
In case of request for an urgent action, the Quick Response Desk of the Special Procedures Division of the OHCHR coordinates the sending of communications by all mandates. Governments are generally requested to provide a substantive response to urgent appeals within 30 days. Only in appropriate cases a mandate holder may decide to make such urgent appeals public by issuing a press release.
Governments are usually requested to respond to letters of allegation of human rights violations within two months.
A summary of urgent appeals and letters of allegation and responses from Governments is usually included in the joint communications report of the Special Procedures to the Human Rights Council. This will include the names of the victims, unless there are specific reasons why the names of the victims should remain confidential. In this case, explain those reasons in your initial submission.
The joint communications reports can be accessed at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/CommunicationsreportsSP.aspx.

Contact Details: 
How to send information on alleged human rights violations to Special Procedures: Special Procedures Division c/o OHCHR-UNOG 8-14 Avenue de la Paix 1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland Fax: +4122 917 90 06 For urgent actions: E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/special/index.htm For further information, or to submit information (other than specific information on alleged human rights violations), please contact: spdinfo@ohchr.org
Further Reading: 

Interpretations

Title Date
General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the ICCPR 13/07/1993

General Comment 22 emphasises the broad scope of the freedom of thought, and clarifies that article 18 protects all form of religion, including the right not to profess any religion or belief.
However, manifestation of religion or beliefs may be limited on the grounds of the protection of others (also article 20: prohibition of propaganda for war, hatred or discrimination).
No restrictions on other grounds may be imposed “even if they would be allowed as restrictions to other rights protected in the Covenant, such as national security”. (reiterated in General Comment 29)
(…) while the ICCPR does not explicitly refer to the right to conscientious objection, that 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” (para. 11).

Recognition of CO Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Reports

None

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Summary

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. It was formerly known as the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance and was originally created by the UN Commission on Human Rights.
The mandate is primarily based on article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 of the ICCPR and the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The mandate holder is appointed to identify and examine incidents and governmental actions in all parts of the world which are inconsistent with the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief. The Special Rapporteur recommends remedial measures as appropriate which includes transmitting urgent appeals (to try to prevent human rights violations) and letters of allegation (about events which have occurred) to States. Furthermore the mandate holder undertakes fact-finding country visits and submits reports on them to the Human Rights Council and General Assembly as well as annual reports, highlighting state practice, trends and individual cases, and thematic studies.
As conscientious objection as a human rights falls under the right to freedom of thought, religion, or belief, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Beliefs has the mandate most closely related to conscientious objection to military service, and takes up most regularly issues of conscientious objection. Cases of non-religious conscientious objectors might however, be a little more difficult, although theoretically they fall under the mandate.

1. Likely results from use of mechanism

a) Individual cases

After the Special Rapporteur has received information on cases of alleged human rights violations, the mandate holder might either send an urgent appeal or a letter of allegation to the Government of the state concerned. Depending on the response received from the Government, the Special Rapporteur will decide on further steps to take.
As a general rule, the existence and content of both urgent appeals and letters of allegation remain confidential until a summary of such communications and the replies received from the State concerned are included in the joint communications report of all special procedures to the Human Rights Council. The joint communications report also includes links to the original urgent appeal or letter of allegation, and – if available – to the Government's response.

b) State law and practice

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Beliefs also receives information on state law and practice, and raises issues with a state concerned either in communications, or during a state visit. The Special Rapporteur might make recommendations in the Annual Report, or in a report on a state visit. For example, in the interim report to the UN General Assembly from July 2009 the Special Rapporteur noted that “Conscientious objection to perform military service is another issue of concern in some States. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the fact that 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 compulsory military service with alternative national service. However, certain domestic legislation remains problematic in terms of the eligibility to and conditions of conscientious objection. The Special Rapporteur recommends a thorough review of these laws from the perspective of their compliance with international standards and best practices.” (see http://wri-irg.org/node/20274)
Following a visit to Azerbaijan, the Special Rapporteur “urge(d) the Government to honour its commitment made before the Council of Europe and to adopt legislation on alternative service in pursuance to the provisions of its own Constitution, which guarantees such a right.” (see http://wri-irg.org/node/20254) Following a country visit to Turkmenistan, the Special Rapporteur recommended: “The Government should ensure that conscientious objectors in Turkmenistan, in particular Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse to serve in the army due to their religious beliefs, be offered an alternative civilian service which is compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection. As such, the Government should also revise the Conscription and Military Service Act which refers to the possibility of being sanctioned twice for the same offence. The Special Rapporteur would like to recall that according to the principle of “ne bis in idem”, as enshrined in article 14 (7) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he or she has already been convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.” (see http://wri-irg.org/node/20252)

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

All States

3. Who can submit information?

Everybody

4. When to submit information?

Information on individual cases should be submitted as soon as possible, especially in cases where an urgent action by the Special Procedure is desired.
For information on State law and practice information can be submitted at any time. It is also advisable to watch out for a visit of the Special Rapporteur to your country, and to submit information timely before a scheduled visit, and to attempt to schedule a meeting during the visit. A coalition of NGOs might have a higher chance to have a meeting during a country visit than an individual NGO so far unknown to the Special Rapporteur.

5. Are there any special rules of procedure?

Information can be submitted by post or electronically, but anonymous submissions will not be considered.
In individual cases, submissions to the Special Procedures are not a quasi-judicial procedure, which means that they are not meant to replace national or international legal procedures. Therefore, there is no need for domestic remedies to be exhausted.
Allegations of human rights violations should contain clear and concise details of the details of the case, the name and other identifying information regarding the individual victim(s), information as to the circumstances including – if available – date and place of incidents and alleged perpetrators, suspected motives, and any steps already taken at the national, regional or international level regarding the case(s).
To facilitate the submission of allegations of human rights violations, the Special Rapporteur has produced a model questionnaire, which is available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/Complaints.aspx.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

The Special Rapporteur may acknowledge receipt of information from individuals and organisations if requested to do so, but they often this does not happen. The Special Rapporteur is also not required to inform those who provide information about any subsequent measures they have taken.
In case of request for an urgent action, the Quick Response Desk of the Special Procedures Division of the OHCHR coordinates the sending of communications by all mandates. Often communications are sent as joint communications of several special procedures. Governments are generally requested to provide a substantive response to urgent appeals within 30 days. Only in appropriate cases a mandate holder may decide to make such urgent appeals public by issuing a press release.
Governments are usually requested to respond to letters of allegation of human rights violations within two months.
A summary of urgent appeals and letters of allegation and responses from Governments is usually included in the joint communications report of the Special Procedures to the Human Rights Council. This will include the names of the victims, unless there are specific reasons why the names of the victims should remain confidential. In this case, explain those reasons in your initial submission.
The joint communications reports can be accessed at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/CommunicationsreportsSP.aspx.
With the introduction of the joint communications report, the Special Rapporteur does no longer add observations to urgent appeals or letters of allegations, and responses received from governments.

7. History of the use of the mechanism.

The special rapporteur for religious intolerance has the mandate most closely related to conscientious objection to military service and is the thematic mechanism to most regularly taking up issues of conscientious objection.
The Special Rapporteur has been informed of the violation of the right to conscientious objection of individual conscientious objectors in several cases, such as cases from Armenia, Turkmenistan, Eritrea, Azerbaijan, among others (see “case law”, below). The issue of conscientious objection has also been raised by the Special Rapporteur during several country visits.
In the past, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has drawn governments' attention to explicit international law (see “legal basis”), and urged governments to comply with international standards by recognising the right to conscientious objection. In several reports, the Rapporteur stressed 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.

Contact Details: 
The complaint should be sent to: Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief c/o Office Of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations at Geneva 8-14 Avenue de la Paix 1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland Fax: (+41 22) 917 90 06 E-mail: freedomofreligion@ohchr.org or to urgent-action@ohchr.org (please include in the subject box: Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief) Model Questionnaire in Englisch: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/religion/docs/questionnaire-e.doc

Interpretations

Title Date
General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the ICCPR 13/07/1993

General Comment 22 emphasises the broad scope of the freedom of thought, and clarifies that article 18 protects all form of religion, including the right not to profess any religion or belief.
However, manifestation of religion or beliefs may be limited on the grounds of the protection of others (also article 20: prohibition of propaganda for war, hatred or discrimination).
No restrictions on other grounds may be imposed “even if they would be allowed as restrictions to other rights protected in the Covenant, such as national security”. (reiterated in General Comment 29)
(…) while the ICCPR does not explicitly refer to the right to conscientious objection, that 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” (para. 11).

Recognition of CO Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution A/HRC/RES/20/2) 05/07/2012

recalling all previous relevant resolutions and decisions, including Human Rights Council decision 2/102 of 6 October 2006, and Commission on Human Rights resolutions 2004/35 of 19 April 2004 and 1998/77 of 22 April 1998, in which the Commission recognized the right of everyone to have conscientious objection 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 and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and general comment No. 22 (1993) of the Human Rights Committee”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
CO to military taxation Neutral
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2004/35) 19/04/2004

The resolution recalled all previous resolutions of the Human Rights Commission and especially “calls upon States that have not yet done so to review their current laws and practices in relation to conscientious objection to military service in the light of its resolution 1998/77, taking account of the information contained in the report”;
In addition, it “encourages States, as part of post‑conflict peace‑building, to consider granting, and effectively implementing, amnesties and restitution of rights, in law and practice, for those who have refused to undertake military service on grounds of conscientious objection”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2002/45) 23/04/2002

The resolution recalls the previous resolutions of the Human Rights Commission regarding conscientious objections to military service and especially takes “note of recommendation 2 made by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its report (see E/CN.4/2001/14, chap. IV, sect. B), aimed at preventing the judicial system of States from being used to force conscientious objectors to change their convictions”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2000/34) 20/04/2000

The resolution recalls the previous resolutions of the Human Rights Commission on the subject of conscientious objection to military service and “calls upon States to review their current laws and practices in relation to conscientious objection to military service in the light of its resolution 1998/77”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Selective objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1998/77) 22/04/1998

The resolution recalls the early resolutions of the Human Rights Commission on the subject of conscientious objection to military service, and highlights:

  • article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right of everyone to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”;
  • impartial decision making on applications for conscientious objection and the “requirement not to discriminate between conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs”;
  • that “States should (...) refrain from subjecting conscientious objectors to imprisonment and to repeated punishment for failure to perform military service, and (...) that no one shall be liable or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country”;
  • that States, in their law and practice, must not discriminate against conscientious objectors in relation to their terms or conditions of service, or any economic, social, cultural, civil or political rights”;
  • asylum for “conscientious objectors compelled to leave their country of origin because they fear persecution owing to their refusal to perform military service when there is no provision, or no adequate provision, for conscientious objection to military service”.
Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Time limits Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1995/83) 08/03/1995

Recalling its earlier resolutions, the Commission “draws attention to 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 “affirms that persons performing military service should not be excluded from the right to have conscientious objections to military service”.

The Commission calls on States to introduce “within the framework of their national legal system, independent and impartial decision-making bodies with the task of determining whether a conscientious objection is valid in a specific case”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
in-service objection Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (resolution 1993/84) 10/03/1993

The Commission recalls its previous resolutions on the subject and “appeals to States, if they have not already done so, to enact legislation and to take measures aimed at exemption from military service on the basis of a genuinely held conscientious objection to armed service”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1991/65) 06/03/1991

The Commission reaffirms “its resolution 1989/59 adopted without a vote on 8 March 1989”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 1989/59) 08/03/1989

The Commission “appeals to States to enact legislation and to take measures aimed at exemption from military service on the basis of a genuinely held conscientious objection to armed service”.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised

Pages

Reports and Observations
Title Date
Armenia. Alleged arbitrary detention and harassment of members of the Jehovah's Witnesses community 23/02/2012

According to the information received, members of the Jehovah's Witnesses community had been facing harassment, as well as the imprisonment of the following 72 Jehovah's Witnesses: (...) The individuals have reportedly been charged under the Armenian Criminal Code for their conscientious objection to military service on religious grounds. Reportedly, a further three had been held in pretrial detention. On 19 July 2011, Garegin Avetisyan was allegedly convicted as a conscientious objector, sentenced and arrested for refusing military service.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, on his mission to the Republic of Moldova 27/01/2012

A. Recommendations for the authorities of the Republic of Moldova
(...)
84. The Government should continue to recognize the right to conscientious objection in law and in practice, and ensure that the relevant legislation is implemented in a non-discriminatory manner.
(...)
87. The “authorities” of the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova are additionally urged:
(...)
(c) To cease without delay practices of detaining persons objecting on grounds of religion or conscience to military service, as well as to develop rules for alternative service for such conscientious objectors;

Recognition of CO Recognised
Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt: Mission to Paraguay 26/01/2012

VI. Conclusions and recommendations
(...)
58. (...) To date, Paraguay has respected conscientious objection to military service, and it is to be hoped that this practice will continue under Law No. 4.013. (...)
64. Against the background of these general observations, the Special Rapporteur encourages the Government: (...)
(g) To continue to recognize the right to conscientious objection in law and in practice; this includes the independent functioning of the newly established National Council on Conscientious Objection, ensuring fair and transparent procedures while maintaining non-punitive principles for alternative non-military civilian service.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Turkmenistan: Urgent appeal sent on 12 February 2010 jointly with the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 14/02/2011

The Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate the observations and recommendations on the issue of conscientious objection in his predecessor’s country report on Turkmenistan (see A/HRC/10/8/Add.4, paras. 17, 50-51, 61 and 68). In paragraph 68 of the country report, the Special Rapporteur recommended that “the Government should ensure that conscientious objectors in Turkmenistan, in particular Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse to serve in the army due to their religious beliefs, be offered an alternative civilian service which is compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection. As such, the Government should also revise the Conscription and Military Service Act which refers to the possibility of being sanctioned twice for the same offence. The Special Rapporteur would like to recall that according to the principle of “ne bis in idem”, as enshrined in article 14 (7) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he or HRC/16/53/Add.1 she has already been convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir – Mission to Turkmenistan 12/01/2009

68. The Government should ensure that conscientious objectors in Turkmenistan, in particular Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse to serve in the army due to their religious beliefs, be offered an alternative civilian service which is compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection. As such, the Government should also revise the Conscription and Military Service Act which refers to the possibility of being sanctioned twice for the same offence. The Special Rapporteur would like to recall that according to the principle of “ne bis in idem”, as enshrined in article 14 (7) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he or she has already been convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Turkmenistan Communication sent on 17 July 2007 28/02/2008

The communication concerned the cases of two conscientious objectors imprisoned for refusing military service.
251. The Special Rapporteur regrets that she has not received a reply from the Government concerning the above mentioned allegation. She would like to refer to Resolution 1998/77 of the Commission on Human Rights, which draws attention to the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to military service. The Human Rights Committee recently observed “that while the right to manifest one’s religion or belief does not as such imply the right to refuse all obligations imposed by law, it provides certain protection, consistent with article 18, paragraph 3, against being forced to act against genuinely-held religious belief” (CCPR/C/88/D/1321-1322/2004, para. 8.3). In line with the Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 22, there shall be no differentiation among conscientious objectors on the basis of the nature of their particular beliefs when the right to conscientious objection is recognized by law or practice; likewise, there shall be no discrimination against conscientious objectors because they have failed to perform military service.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Libya Urgent appeal sent on 13 February 2007 jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture 28/02/2008

The case concerned the situation of 430 Eritrean refugees in Libya, the majority conscripts who fled Eritrea to avoid military service. All were detained in Libya. “The 430 individuals are facing imminent deportation to Eritrea. During their detention, Libyan authorities have reportedly beaten and raped or sexually abused some detainees. Concerns were expressed that, should they be forcibly returned to Eritrea, they may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment, as well as for potential persecution with regard to their freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Further concern was expressed for their physical and mental integrity while in detention.
(…)
The Special Rapporteur “would like to take the opportunity to refer to her last report to the General Assembly where she has dealt with the vulnerable situation of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons (see A/62/280, paras. 38-63). A refusal to perform military service in the refugee’s country of origin may give rise to a well-founded fear of persecution and relevant UNHCR documents (see ibid., para. 58) provide that refugee status may be established if the refusal to serve is based on genuine political, religious or moral convictions or valid reasons of conscience. In conscientious objector cases, a law purporting to be of general application in the country of origin may be persecutory where it impacts differently on particular groups, where it is applied in a discriminatory manner or where the punishment is excessive or disproportionately severe or where it cannot reasonably be expected to be performed by the individual because of his or her genuine beliefs or religious convictions.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Eritrea Communication sent on 11 October 2007 jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture 28/02/2008

95. The Special Rapporteur regrets that she has not received a reply from the Government concerning the above mentioned allegation. She wishes to stress that the right of conscientious objection is a right which is closely linked with freedom of religion of belief. The Special Rapporteur 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. Imprisoning conscientious objectors for more than 13 years is clearly a disproportionate measure which violates the individuals’ 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 (ICCPR).

Recognition of CO Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir - Addendum: Mission to Tajikistan 27/11/2007

The Special Rapporteur is concerned that the Government of Tajikistan does not recognize the right to conscientious objection to compulsory military service. She would like to reiterate the recommendation of the Human Rights Committee that the Government take all necessary measures to recognize the right of conscientious objectors to be exempted [7] from military service. In line with the Human Rights Committee’s general comment No. 22 (1993), 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. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to ensure that no legislation is adopted which overstates the permissible limitations on the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief, especially with regard to the issue of conscientious objection to compulsory military service.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Discrimination Recognised
Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir 20/07/2007

The first mandate-holder, Mr. Angelo Vidal d’Almeida Ribeiro, developed a set of criteria concerning cases of conscientious objection (E/CN.4/1992/52, para. 185). 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 a 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.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Discrimination Recognised

Pages

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Summary

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, established as a Special Procedure in 1991, under the mandate of the former UN Commission on Human Rights (replaced by the Human Rights Council in 2006), investigates cases of arbitrarily detained people worldwide. It receives information regarding alleged cases of arbitrary detention by the individuals directly concerned, their families, their representatives or NGOs, and sends urgent appeals and communications to the concerned Governments to clarify the conditions of those allegedly detained. Under this mandate the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers cases without legal basis for the detention, cases where the right to a fair trial has been so badly violated that it makes the subsequent detention invalid, and cases of prisoners of conscience.

Examples of the kind of issues the Working Group examines include:

  • detention arising from a fundamental breach of human rights such as freedom of expression or freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • excessive time being spent on remand before being brought to trial;
  • where a person is detained after they should have been released;
  • house arrest.

Furthermore it conducts country visits to countries that issued an invitation and presents annual reports to the Human Rights Council.

There is an online database of documents of the Working Group at http://www.unwgaddatabase.org/un/.

1. Likely results from use of mechanism

a) Individual cases

After the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has received information on cases of alleged arbitrary detentions, it might send either an urgent appeal or a letter of allegation to the government concerned. When the Working Group decides to issue an opinion on a case, a response received from a government will be forwarded to the original source for comment. These opinions are reported to the Human Rights Council and are published on the website of the Working Group at http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=117 and in the online database at http://www.unwgaddatabase.org/un/.

Opinions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention are quasi-judicial, in that they are not legally binding, but are argued like a legal decision, and will be taken into account by other UN special bodies, such as the Human Rights Committee.

Urgent action

In cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that a person may be detained arbitrarily and that the alleged violations may be time-sensitive in terms of involving loss of life, life-threatening situations or either imminent or ongoing damage of a very grave nature to victims in the event of the continuation of the detention, the Working Group transmit an urgent appeal to the Government. An urgent appeal does not prejudge any Opinion the Working Group might subsequently render in the case.

b) State law and practice

While the focus of the mandate of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is on individual cases, it also considers state law and practice. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention conducts at least two country visits annually, during which it will discuss issues around arbitrary detention with the government of the country. Following a country visit, the Working Group will make observations on the information received from the government, NGOs and individuals, and will make recommendations to the government.
Reports of visits are made available online at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/Visits.aspx, and are submitted to the Human Rights Council.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

All States.

3. Who can submit information?

Everybody

4. When to submit information?

Information on individual cases should be submitted as soon as possible, especially in cases where an urgent action by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is desired.
Information on State law and practice can be submitted at any time, but is especially relevant before a planned country visit by the Working Group.

5. Special rules of procedure or advice for making a submission?

According to the revised methods of work of the Working Group, submission need to be in writing, and need to include the name and address of the person and/or organisation submitting the information.
A communication should include as a minimum:

  • date of arrest
  • place of detention
  • formal charges, if any
  • access to counsel/outside organisation/family, etc
  • date of presentation to a judge, if applicable
  • date and information about trial, if applicable.

The Working Group prefers to receive information using its model questionnaire, which is available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/Complaints.aspx.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

After receiving information on a case of arbitrary detention, the Working Group will send a communication to the Government concerned, which will include the information that the Working Group is authorised to render an opinion on the case. The Government is requested to reply within 60 days to this letter, but can request an extension of no more than one month. A reply received by the Working Group will be forwarded to the source for comment.
Depending on the information received, the Working Group can take one of the following measures:

  • if the person has been released, the case might be filed, but the Working Group reserves the right to render an opinion, whether or not the person has been released;
  • if the Working Group considers that further information is required, it can keep the case pending and request further information;
  • if the Working Group has sufficient information, it will render an opinion, which can either state that the detention was arbitrary, or not. Even in the absence of a State's response, the Working Group can render an opinion, if it considers the information received from the source to be sufficient.

Depending on the complexity of the case, the time it takes the Working Group to come to a final decision varies between 6 months and 24 months.
Any opinion is sent first to the Government concerned, and two weeks later to the source.
Opinions are published in an addendum to the Working Group´s annual report to the Human Rights Council, and are also available on the website of the Working Group at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/Complaints.aspx and http://www.unwgaddatabase.org/.
In exceptional cases, the Working Group can reconsider an Opinion on the request of the source or the government, for example if the facts have changed or have to be considered as entirely new, so that the Working Group would come to a different opinion would it have been aware of the facts at the time. Governments can only request a review if they replied to the original allegation within the above mentioned time limit.

In an urgent case scenario the Working Group sends an urgent appeal to the Government concerned in order to ensure that the detained person’s right to life and to physical and mental integrity are respected.
The government will be urged to safeguard the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one's liberty.
An urgent appeal to a Government does in no way prejudge the Working Groups final assessment of the case, unless the arbitrary character of the deprivation of liberty has already been determined.
Urgent appeals and responses received by governments will be included in the regular joint communications report of all Special Procedures to the Human Rights Council, and are available online at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/CommunicationsreportsSP.aspx.

7. History of the use of the mechanism.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has been successfully used by conscientious objectors. It's first known opinion was on the case of Turkish conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke (Opinion 36/1999), who was imprisoned repeatedly for disobeying orders. In line with the international standards at the time, the Working Group considered any detention from the second detention on as arbitrary, contrary to the principle of ne-bis-in-idem. The Turkish government requested a review of this Opinion in 2000, but the Working Group upheld its original opinion (see Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 20 December 2000).
In 2003, the Working Group rendered a similar opinion on five cases from Israel.
Following the development of the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee, from 2008 on the Working Group considered any detention of a conscientious objector as arbitrary (see Opinion No 8/2008 [Colombia] and Opinion 16/2008 [Turkey]).
In its Opinion No 8/2008, the Working Group also came to the conclusion that the widespread practice of “batidas” in Colombia (raids on young people in public places) in order to establish the military status of young people and their subsequent transfer to military barracks constitutes arbitrary detention. It then raised this issue also with the Government of Colombia during its country visit from 1-10 October 2008 (see Report on the Mission to Colombia, 16 February 2009).

Contact Details: 
For an individual case or cases, the communication should be sent, if possible accompanied by the model questionnaire prepared for this purpose, to: Working Group on Arbitrary Detention c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations Office at Geneva 8-14, avenue de la Paix 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland facsimile: +41 22 9179006 e-mail: wgad@ohchr.org Communications requesting the Working Group to launch an urgent appeal on humanitarian grounds should be sent to the above address, preferably by e-mail or facsimile.
Further Reading: 

Interpretations

Title Date
Recommendation 2: detention of conscientious objectors 20/12/2000

The Working Group recommends that all States that have not yet done so adopt appropriate legislative or other measures to ensure that conscientious objector status is recognized and attributed, in accordance with an established procedure, and that, pending the adoption of such measures, when de facto objectors are prosecuted, such prosecutions should not give rise to more than one conviction, so as to prevent the judicial system from being used to force conscientious objectors to change their convictions.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Opinions and Reports
Title Date
Armenia. Alleged arbitrary detention and harassment of members of the Jehovah's Witnesses community 23/02/2012

According to the information received, members of the Jehovah's Witnesses community had been facing harassment, as well as the imprisonment of the following 72 Jehovah's Witnesses: (...) The individuals have reportedly been charged under the Armenian Criminal Code for their conscientious objection to military service on religious grounds. Reportedly, a further three had been held in pretrial detention. On 19 July 2011, Garegin Avetisyan was allegedly convicted as a conscientious objector, sentenced and arrested for refusing military service.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Turkmenistan: Urgent appeal sent on 12 February 2010 jointly with the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 14/02/2011

The Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate the observations and recommendations on the issue of conscientious objection in his predecessor’s country report on Turkmenistan (see A/HRC/10/8/Add.4, paras. 17, 50-51, 61 and 68). In paragraph 68 of the country report, the Special Rapporteur recommended that “the Government should ensure that conscientious objectors in Turkmenistan, in particular Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse to serve in the army due to their religious beliefs, be offered an alternative civilian service which is compatible with the reasons for conscientious objection. As such, the Government should also revise the Conscription and Military Service Act which refers to the possibility of being sanctioned twice for the same offence. The Special Rapporteur would like to recall that according to the principle of “ne bis in idem”, as enshrined in article 14 (7) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he or HRC/16/53/Add.1 she has already been convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Opinion No 50/2011 (Egypt) 02/09/2011

18. Finally, the Working Group finds no specific facts capable of justifying Mr. Sanad’s detention. The only reasonable explanation is that Mr. Sanad’s detention is due to his criticism of the military and the police in the country. Recently, he had criticized the army in a series of articles available on the Internet. His complaints to the police and security regarding acts of public violence against him have been of no avail. It follows that Mr. Sanad’s deprivation of liberty is also arbitrary falling into category II of the categories applicable to the consideration of cases submitted to the Working Group.

Disposition

19. In the light of the foregoing, the Working Group renders the following opinion:
The deprivation of liberty of Maikel Nabil Sanad is arbitrary and constitutes a breach of articles 9, 10, 11 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9, 14 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, falling into categories II and III of the categories applicable to the cases submitted to the Working Group.
20. The Working Group requests the Government to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation, which would include the immediate release of Mr. Sanad and the provision of adequate reparation to him.

Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Addendum Mission to Armenia 17/02/2011

Armenia:

68. The Working Group also received information regarding the arrest and imprisonment of 80 conscientious objectors of the Jehovah Witness faith. In recent years, young men of this faith have been imprisoned due to their refusal to enlist in the military and participate in the alternative civil service offered to enlistment. The Working Group was told that the alternative civil service, established by a 2003 Act, is not functioning in practice. The Ministry of Defence in Armenia has expressed its readiness to discuss the possibility of reducing the length of alternative service to an acceptable limit.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Length/terms of service Recognised
Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Addendum: Mission to Colombia 16/02/2009

66. The Working Group notes with concern the arrests carried out by military personnel, in particular the practice of round-ups, despite the fact that the army does not have legal powers to do so. On some occasions, soldiers have orders to arrest a few persons, but arrest many more. One variation is forced enlistment: mass detentions of young persons with a view to checking their military status. Those who are deemed to have failed to register, to respond to being called up or to have performed military service are taken to the barracks for forced recruitment. The Deputy Minister of Defence declared that every young male must carry on his person his military service record or the document confirming the postponement of his military service because military service is not only the right, but the obligation of all male citizens. By and large, it is not the army, but illegal armed groups who forcibly recruit minors. The Working Group considered complaints from conscientious objectors who said that their objections were not taken into account. The Working Group has already deemed that the refusal to recognize the right of conscientious objection contravenes international human rights law.

Recognition of CO Recognised
Opinion No 8/2008 (Colombia) 07/08/2008

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared in its Opinion No 8/2008 (Colombia) the practice of recruitment in the form of raids (batidas), and the recruitment of conscientious objectors a form of "arbitrary detention".

Recognition of CO Recognised
Opinion No. 16/2008 (Turkey) 19/07/2008

"The deprivation of liberty of Mr. Halil Savda during the periods between 16 and 28 December 2004, between 7 December 2006 and 2 February 2007, as well as between 5 February and 28 July 2007 was arbitrary. His deprivation of liberty since 27 March 2008 is also arbitrary, being in contravention of articles 9 and 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 9 and 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights".

Recognition of CO Recognised
Repeated punishment Recognised
Opinion No 24/2003 (Israel) 28/11/2003

The second and subsequent deprivations of liberty of Matan Kaminer, Adam Maor, Noam Bahat and Jonathan Ben-Artzi are contrary to article 14, paragraph 7, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial is of such gravity as to confer on the deprivation of liberty an arbitrary nature, falling within category III of the categories applicable to the consideration of cases submitted to the Working Group.

Repeated punishment Recognised
Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 20/12/2000

44. By note of 31 October 2000, the Government of Turkey challenged the Working Group’s Opinion No. 36/1999 (O. Murat Ulke). It argues that rather than evaluating the activities for which Mr. Ulke was convicted as “single offences” (i.e. consisting of a single action and its uninterrupted continuing results), one should interpret Mr. Ulke’s consistent refusal to perform his military service as “continuing offences”: every time he was deprived of his liberty the “continuity” of his offence was broken, and every new refusal to perform military service constituted another new offence for which he was once again convicted and deprived of liberty. (…)
48. The objections of the Government were considered by the Working Group at its twenty-ninth session. The Working Group believes that its Opinion is founded on a solid legal basis consistent with accepted jurisprudential norms.

Repeated punishment Recognised
Opinion No 36/1999 (Turkey) 02/12/1999

It follows that the Working Group considers that Mr.Ülke's detention from 7 October to December 1996 was not arbitrary. Regarding the other periods, and in view of the foregoing, the Working Group considers that Mr. Ülke's detention is arbitrary, it having been ordered in violation of the fundamental principle non bis in idem, a principle generally recognized in countries where the rule of law prevails as being one of the most essential guarantees of the right to a fair trial.
In the light of the foregoing, the Working Group expresses the following opinion: The deprivation of liberty of Mr. Osman Murat Ülke from October to December 1996 was not arbitrary. His detention since 28 January 1997 is, however, arbitrary, being contrary to article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it falls within category III of the principles applicable in the consideration of the cases submitted to the Working Group.

Repeated punishment Recognised

A Conscientious Objector's Guide to the International Human Rights System

Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure

Summary

The Complaint Procedure of the Human Rights Council is a confidential procedure to address consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested human rights violations. It is therefore not suitable for individual cases except when they are representative of a pattern of reliably attested human rights violations.
The Complaint Procedure is of confidential nature and the lodging of communications should not be made public. While the complainant might be informed whether a complaint has been taken up by the procedure, the steps taken and the outcome of the complaint remain confidential, unless the Human Rights Council decides to consider the complaint in public.
The Complaint Procedure was introduced by resolution 5/1 of the Human Rights Council - UN Human Rights Council: Institution Building – from 18 June 2007, and replaces the former 1503 procedure.

1. Likely results from use of mechanism

If a complaint is taken up after initial screening by the Working Group on Communications, the allegation of human rights violations will be transmitted to the State concerned. A Working Group of the Human Rights Council (the Working Group on Situations) will then consider the complaint and the reply received from the State, and make a recommendation to the Human Rights Council, which will consider the report of the Working Group in a confidential manner, unless the Council decides otherwise.
The Human Rights Council can take one of the following measures:

  • to discontinue considering the situation, if no further action is needed;
  • to keep the situation under review, and request further information from the State concerned;
  • to keep the situation under review and appoint an independent expert to monitor the situation and report back to the Council;
  • to discontinue reviewing the situation under the confidential complaint procedure in order to take up a public consideration;
  • to recommend to the OHCHR to assist the State concerned.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

All States.

3. Who can submit information?

A complaint through the Complaint Procedure can be lodged by Individuals as well as NGOs with or without consultative status to the Human Rights Council. Anonymous complaints can however not be considered.

4. When to submit information?

A complaint can be lodged at any time. However, domestic remedies have to be exhausted, unless such remedies would be ineffective or unreasonably prolonged. The complaint should also not refer to a pattern of human rights violations already being dealt with by one of the Special Procedures, a treaty body or other United Nations or similar regional complaints procedure.

5. Special rules of procedure or advice for making a submission?

The Complaint Procedure can only process complaints submitted in writing. It is advisable to limit the complaint to 10-15 pages to which additional information may be submitted at a later stage.
As anonymous complaints cannot be admitted it is crucial to include identification of the person(s) or organisation(s) submitting the communication (this information will be kept confidential, if requested).
Complaints submitted to the Complaint Procedure should include a description of the relevant facts in as much detail as possible, providing names of alleged victims, dates, location and other evidence.
They should also include the purpose of the complaint and the rights allegedly violated.
All communications found to be manifestly ill-founded or anonymous will be discarded.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

After an initial screening and a decision on the admissibility of a complaint by the Working Group on Communications, a request for information will be sent to the State concerned, which shall reply no later than three months after the request has been made. If necessary, this deadline may however be extended.
The Working Group on Situation will then prepare a report to the Human Rights Council, usually in the form of a draft resolution or decision on the situation referred to in the complaint. It may also decide to keep the situation under review and request further information.
The Human Rights Council will decide on the measures to take in a confidential manner as needed, but at least once a year. As a general rule, the period of time between the transmission of the complaint to the State concerned and consideration by the Council shall not exceed 24 months.
All material provided by individuals as well as the replies by the Governments remain of confidential nature during and after the consideration by the Complaint Procedure. This also applies to decisions taken at the various stages of the procedure.
Therefore it is important to do not publicly state that you have submitted a case to the Complaint Procedure.

7. History of the use of the mechanism.

To the knowledge of the authors, this mechanism has not yet been used for the issue of conscientious objection. However, it might have influenced the decision of the Human Rights Council to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Eritrea in 2012.

Contact Details: 
Communications intended for handling under the Council Complaint Procedure may be addressed to: Human Rights Council and Treaties Division Complaint Procedure OHCHR-UNOG  1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland  Fax: (41 22) 917 90 11  E-mail: CP@ohchr.org
Further Reading: 
Decisions

None