Recognizing the right to conscientious objection – Part I – correcting a mistake

In the Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Bayatyan v. Armenia the Court recognized a right to conscientious objection under Article 9. The first step in doing so was to correct a mistake started by the European Commission of Human Rights (Commission) regarding the interpretation of Article 9 in conjunction with Article 4. Continue reading

Conscientious objection: unfortunate precedent should not survive in the Grand Chamber

It is great news that the Grand Chamber has accepted the request for referral in the conscientious objection case of Bayatyan v. Armenia. Last October, against commonly accepted standards in the Council of Europe Member States (see, PACE, Recommendation 1518, 2001, paras. 2 and 3) and, despite Armenia’s official commitment to pardon conscientious objectors (see, PACE, Opinion No. 221, 2000, para. 13, iv, d), the Chamber upheld a Jehovah’s Witness conviction for refusing to perform military service on religious grounds. The European Court concluded that “Article 9, read in the light of Article 4 § 3 (b), does not guarantee a right to refuse military service on conscientious grounds.”

The applicant had asked the Court to examine the case “in the light of the evolution of the law and the current practice among member states, the greater majority of which had recognized the right of conscientious objection.” The Court admitted the fact that the majority of Member States had adopted laws providing for alternative service for conscientious objectors. Unfortunately, however, the Court did not proceed this way. Continue reading