Tuesday, September 20, 2016

European Court: Greece Violated Rights of Conscientious Objector

In Papavasilakis v. Greece, (ECHR, Sept. 15, 2016) [full text in French], the European Court of Human Rights in a Chamber Judgment found that a Jehovah's Witness' freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Art. 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights) were infringed by procedures used in Greece to consider his application to perform alternative civilian service instead of military service. As summarized by the Court's English-language press release:
Domestic law provided that the Special Board, when it examined applications for exemption from military service for conscientious objectors, had to be composed of two university professors, one senior or other advisor at the State Legal Council and two high-ranking army officers. Accordingly, if at the time it interviewed Mr Papavasilakis the Special Board had sat with all of its members present, the majority would have been civilians. However, only the two officers and the chairman were present on that day. In the Court’s view Mr Papavasilakis could thus have legitimately feared that, not being a member of a religious community, he would not succeed in conveying his ideological beliefs to career officers with senior positions in the military hierarchy.
A Chamber Judgment may be appealed to the Grand Chamber.