By Guest Nicole
A South Korean court has ruled in favor of a man who refused to take part in the country's mandatory military service on religious grounds.
The Gwangju District Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal by prosecutors, upholding a previous ruling that found the man not guilty.
It also acquitted two other so-called "conscientious objectors" who had been sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison.
All three of the men are Jehovah's Witnesses, who say they are prohibited by their faith from entering the military.
The court said the men's refusal of mandatory military service was consistent with their religious faith and conscience, considering how they were brought up.
It cited an international trend of recognizing conscientious objectors, and pointed to a growing consensus that some kind of alternative military service is needed in such cases.
The Defense Ministry urged the court to use caution and prudence, as cases like this may affect national security, cause a decrease of morale for active-duty servicemen, and enable others to evade military service.
Alternative nonmilitary community service is better than prison, economically, as real benefits accrue from those who refuse to go to war.
South Korea’s Unjust Treatment of Dong-hyuk Shin. Photo: Courtesy of jw.org, used with permission.
Since 1953 the Republic of South Korea—one of Asia’s most advanced democracies—has severely punished #conscientious objectors. In 64 years, more than 19,000 young male Jehovah’s Witnesses there have served prison terms totaling more than 36,300 years of accumulated confinement. Presently 393 are serving sentence, typically 18 months to two years. “The New York Times” says 600-700 go to prison annually and comprise more than 90 percent of imprisoned conscientious objectors worldwide. This policy needlessly harms society in general, not just conscientious objectors:
Society foots incarceration costs for prisoner upkeep.
It loses the valuable alternative work these prisoners could perform as community service.
The national economy loses millions of tax dollar revenues that these healthy young men cannot contribute by holding gainful employment.
Then there’s the incalculable emotional devastation to each prisoner’s family.
The struggle to recognize conscientious objection
At a rare juncture in South Korea’s history, according to “The Korea Herald,” both its Supreme Court and its Constitutional Court are dealing simultaneously with conscientious objection.
Various lower-court guilty verdicts have risen through the appellate levels for final judgment. Under scrutiny is whether conscientious objectors should be criminally punished by imprisonment for their stance of strict neutrality. South Korea’s Constitution is also under the microscope, due to pressure by numerous international entities, including the United Nations, which has urged South Korea’s government to adopt legislation that allows for alternative nonmilitary community service.
The conscientious objector’s view
To the conscientious objector, #murder is murder. They hate it. Being ordered to murder doesn’t make them hate it any less. Yet theirs is more than a question of personal taste. They believe that no one—not even a high-ranking official barking orders—can give them, or anyone, the right to take another human’s life.
Many believe a Supreme Authority condemns such permission-giving, even in times of war. And we need to keep that view in mind when figuring out what to do about and how to treat those who will not—for moral reasons that form the core of their very being—commit murder.
Far from cowardly
It’s easy to think of conscientious objectors as cowards who shirk their patriotic duty and flee from danger. But that’s not the case at all. Conscientious objectors face their responsibility; they don’t dodge it. When the Law issues an order, they obey it. If they can’t, they confront the Law through the proper channels, seeking recourse that allows them to discharge their duty without murdering. When their only options are—in their view—to murder or to disobey the law, they do what they are convinced is the morally right thing to do, knowing full well the grave consequences they will face: loss of liberty, sometimes loss of life. That takes considerable courage. Only the brave retain their dignity. Cowards have none to start with and thus none to lose upon fleeing.
Particularly egregious is South Korea’s treatment of Dong-hyuk Shin, who successfully completed military service in 2005 with honorable discharge. That automatically enrolled him in the reserve forces. After studying the Bible, his conscience moved him to change his position regarding military training and service. When summoned in 2006 for reserve forces training, he did not flee. Instead, he informed officials of his new status as a conscientious objector and one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Military officials ignored his objection—to them, it simply did not exist.
Enough is enough
Altogether, from March 2006 to December 2013, the military summoned Mr. Shin 118 times for reservist training. He has been prosecuted and convicted 49 times, has made trial and appellate court appearances 69 times and has received 35 court verdicts. The Court certainly could better spend its time and resources pursuing true criminals and leave Mr. Shin alone. Courts have fined him more than U.S. $13,300. Six times he has been sentenced to prison terms of six months or longer, later replaced by conditional sentences, including 200 hours of community service. Due to all the court appearances, he has had to change employment seven times. The stress has taken a physical toll on his strength and health. His mother has suffered emotional distress due to all the turmoil, and this has intensified Mr. Shin’s own suffering.
The end of all wars
John F. Kennedy wrote to a Navy friend: “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.” The inverse of that perceptive prediction is fascinating: When everyone views warfare as murder and conscientiously objects to murder in all its circumstances, then all wars will cease. Warriors may equally dislike taking human lives. Yet their government gives them permission to do so with impunity in certain circumstances. It is the conscientious objector who steels himself (or herself) in face of the State’s demands, to follow the dictates of conscience.
A winning policy, guaranteed
South Korea’s move to adopt alternative nonmilitary service for conscientious objection would be a win-win situation: The nation would benefit from free community services rendered by productive members of society; tax revenues would accrue as conscientious objectors would also be gainfully employed instead of behind bars; with starkly fewer prison inmates, government spending on corrections would drop; and thousands of Korean families would be relieved of the stress and trauma that a family member’s unnecessary imprisonment inflicts on them. International entities worldwide are keenly anticipating the move South Korea will make as a world-leading democracy.
By Bible Speaks
Amnesty International publishes the story of a Jehovah's Witness from South Korea.
By Guest Nicole
Turkmenbashi City Court jailed 19-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Mekan Annayev for the maximum two years for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. Five others have already been jailed in 2018, one in an apparent show trial. Two more young men face trial in August.
The city court in Turkmenbashi in western Turkmenistan has handed down the longest known prison sentence so far in 2018 to punish refusal to conduct compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. At the request of the prosecutor, Judge Myrat Garayev handed 19-year-old Jehovah's Witness Mekan Annayev the maximum two-year jail term, he told Forum 18 from the court on 23 July.
During one meeting at the city's military conscription office in October 2017, officials had called in the city's chief imam to conduct "explanatory work" with Annayev in an apparent attempt to pressure him to undertake military service, even though Annayev is not a Muslim (see below).
In all five other known jailings of conscientious objectors in 2018, courts handed down one-year jail terms. All those sentenced were – like Annayev – Jehovah's Witnesses (see F18News 30 July 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2400).
Two more Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors face trial in August. The trial of Isa Sayaev was due to have begun on 9 August in the northern Dashoguz Region. The trial of Ruslan Artykmuradov is due to begin in Lebap Region on 13 August (see below).
Prosecutor's Offices are considering similar criminal cases against other Jehovah's Witness young men for refusing military service on grounds of conscience, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.
The trial of one of those jailed in July was held in the District Military Conscription Office. It remains unknown if this was to show other local young men the punishment for failing to abide by call-up notices (see below).
Forum 18 wished to ask the Human Rights Ombudsperson Yazdursun Gurbannazarova, who was named by the government-appointed parliament, why individuals who cannot do military service on grounds of conscience cannot undertake alternative, civilian service and why they are jailed. However, her telephone went unanswered each time Forum 18 called on 10 August.
No conscientious objection, no alternative service
Turkmenistan offers no alternative to its compulsory military service. Military service for men between the ages of 18 and 27 is generally two years. Article 58 of the 2016 Constitution describes defence as a "sacred duty" of everyone and states that military service is compulsory for men. Turkmenistan ignored the recommendation of a July 2016 legal review of the draft Constitution by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation that it should include a provision for alternative, civilian service (see F18News 3 October 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2220).
Young men who refuse military service on grounds of conscience face prosecution under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. This punishes refusal to serve in the armed forces in peacetime with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or two years' corrective labour (see Forum 18's Turkmenistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2244).
In March 2017, at the end of its review of Turkmenistan's record under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee again called on the authorities to end punishments for those unable to perform military service on grounds of conscience and introduce an alternative, civilian service (CCPR/C/TKM/CO/2).
"The State party should revise its legislation without undue delay with a view to clearly recognizing the right to conscientious objection to military service," the Committee declared, "provide for alternative service of a civilian nature outside the military sphere and not under military command for conscientious objectors, and halt all prosecutions of individuals who refuse to perform military service on grounds of conscience and release those who are currently serving prison sentences."
Officials refused to explain to Forum 18 why they did not implement the UN recommendation. With the two jailings in January 2018, less than a year after the UN report was issued, Turkmenistan began imprisoning conscientious objectors again after a break of four years (see F18News 23 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2363).
Turkmenbashi: maximum 2-year jail term
The Conscription Office in Turkmenbashi, a port city on the Caspian Sea, summoned Jehovah's Witness Mekan Orazdurdiyevich Annayev (born 22 June 1999) to Balkan Regional Conscription Office for military service in June 2017 (when he reached the age of 18). The Conscription Office summoned him twice in October 2017 and again in March 2018 and twice in April 2018, according to the indictment seen by Forum 18.
In response to two of the summonses, Annayev went to the city Conscription Office, telling officers that he could not conduct military service on grounds of conscience. The indictment records that he quoted Jesus' words from the Gospel of Matthew: "Put away your sword, for all who live by the sword shall die by the sword."
On 26 October 2017, the indictment notes, Annayev "arrived at the military conscription office with his parents and brother. Explanatory work was conducted with him with the participation of the Chief Imam of Turkmenbashi." Annayev repeated his refusal to perform military service on grounds of conscience.
Curiously, the indictment notes that Annayev is not a member of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the country's ruling party.
On 4 June 2018, after establishing that Annayev was medically and psychologically fit for military service, had no criminal record and was not on the register of alcoholics or drug addicts, Trainee Assistant to Turkmenbashi Prosecutor L. Saltykova brought charges against him under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. Annayev's trial was held at Turkmenbashi City Court on 26 June, four days after his 19th birthday.
During Annayev's trial, the court's chief judge Rustam Atajanov came to the courtroom and interrupted Judge Garayev, who was presiding over the hearing. "Atajanov began rudely questioning Mekan Annayev and accusing him and all Jehovah's Witnesses of being traitors," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "He even demanded, loudly screaming, to throw two attendees out simply for whispering." After Judge Atajanov left, the hearing continued.
At the end of the trial, the state prosecutor asked the court to sentence Annayev to two years' imprisonment. "In most other cases, state prosecutors usually ask to sentence young Jehovah's Witnesses to one year of imprisonment," Jehovah's Witnesses noted.
Judge Garayev acceded to the prosecutor's request and sentenced Annayev to two years' imprisonment in an ordinary regime labour camp. As Annayev had not been under arrest before the trial he was arrested after the verdict was handed down and taken away to begin his sentence.
Judge Garayev refused to explain to Forum 18 on 23 July why he had punished Annayev for refusing military service on grounds of conscience or why he had given him the maximum penalty. He also refused to discuss the conduct of the trial, including why the chief judge had interrupted proceedings.
Annayev did not appeal against his conviction to Balkan Regional Court, the court told Forum 18 on 23 July.
Two more Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors face trial in August under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1 after refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience.
The trial of Isa Sayaev was due to have begun on 9 August at Koneurgench City Court in the northern Dashoguz Region. Forum 18 was unable to reach the court on 10 August to find out if the trial took place as scheduled.
The trial of Ruslan Artykmuradov is due to begin in Lebap Region on 13 August, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.
Was July trial a show trial?
Three Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors are known to have been jailed in July under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. Each was given a one-year ordinary regime labour camp sentence. One of the three, Ikhlosbek Valijon oglu Rozmetov (born 26 November 1997), was convicted on 11 July at Gurbansoltan eje District Court in Dashoguz Region (see F18News 30 July 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2400).
According to the verdict seen by Forum 18, Judge Sh. Almazov of Gurbansoltan eje District Court held the trial in the conference hall of the District Military Conscription Office. It added that the trial was open. The verdict gives no reason for the decision to hold the trial there.
Forum 18 was unable to reach Gurbansoltan eje District Court or the Military Conscription Office to find out who had attended the trial apart from the accused, prosecutors, lawyers and witnesses and whether the trial was meant to send a signal to local young men of what happens to those who refuse compulsory military service.
The verdict notes that Rozmetov had not been under arrest in the run-up to the trial (he had been required to sign a declaration not to leave the area). He was arrested in the courtroom after the verdict was delivered to be taken away to begin his sentence.
Imminent transfer to Seydi Labour Camp?
The latest jailed conscientious objectors are likely to be sent to serve their sentences at the ordinary regime labour camp LB-K/12 in the desert near Seydi, in Lebap Region. Many other prisoners of conscience jailed to punish them for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief have been held in the camp.
The two imprisoned Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors - Arslan Begenchov and Kerven Kakabayev – were sent there after their January convictions (see F18News 23 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2363).
Also held at Seydi Labour Camp is fellow Jehovah's Witness Bahram Hemdemov. He was arrested during a March 2015 raid on his home, after which he was tortured. He is serving a four year prison term from 19 May 2015 on charges of allegedly inciting religious hatred, which he strongly denies, but his real "crime" seems to have been hosting a meeting for worship (see F18News 5 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2164).
The address of the Seydi Labour Camp is:
746222 Lebap velayat
By Guest Nicole
Born to a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baek Jong-keon realized the price of his faith in South Korea at an early age.Â
His father had gone to jail for refusing to take up arms, and his three older brothers chose the same path when the time came for them to serve their mandatory military service.Â
Baek Jong-keon works as an assistant at a law firm in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul. Bak Se-hwan/The Korea Herald
In a country where all able-bodied men are required to serve in the military to defend against North KoreaÂ’s 1.2 million-strong armed forces, it seemed like a bleak future awaited him, too.Â
Â“I grew up watching my father -- and my three brothers -- go to jail for objecting to the mandatory military service. It was hard to overcome the fear and the pain as a kid,Â” said Baek, 33, in an interview with The Korea Herald.Â
Â“ThatÂ’s why I wanted to become a lawyer -- to change the situation.Â”Â
Baek also chose the life of a conscientious objector in South Korea -- or the life of a convicted Â“draft dodger.Â” He was sentenced to 18 months in jail by the Supreme Court in 2016.Â
He served his prison term and was released in May this year. The Korean Bar Association suspended his lawyerÂ’s license for five years, a possibility that he had known since he was preparing for the bar exam.Â
All this, however, does not mean Baek is accepting things as they are. Now working as an assistant at a small law firm, he is fighting to regain his license. He has been rejected once, but is still fighting.Â
He is also fighting for the sake of other conscientious objectors to have the government and society recognize their freedom of conscience and offer them alternative ways to serve the country.Â
Â“Roughly 400 young conscientious objectors are currently in jail. I think that we should seriously consider giving them alternative forms of military service instead of just treating them as outlaws,Â” he said.Â
Since 2013, nearly 2,500 people were prosecuted for failing to enlist in the military, according to data from the Military Manpower Administration. The military service law mandates a prison sentence of up to three years for men who avoid the draft.Â
A majority of the 2,500 are JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, who object to any form of militarism. Of the total, 15 are unreligious, objecting conscription based on their personal beliefs and the principles of Â“no violenceÂ” and Â“no war.Â”Â
But there are growing signs that the judicial system may be easing its stance on conscientious objectors. This year alone,Â 40 acquittals were made at lower courts for conscientious objectors, five times more than in 2016, reflecting a possible change in legal perceptions.Â
Although no final decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the acquittals has been made yet, the repeated rulings in favor of the objectors are pressing the government to react.
The Constitutional Court is currently reviewing the constitutionality of the conscription law, with several complaints filed regarding conscientious objection.
During his confirmation hearing at the National Assembly last month, new Constitutional Court chief Lee Jin-sung hinted at the need to change the long-entrenched judicial practice against conscientious objection.Â
Â“We should take the situation seriously where people endure being sent to prison for their adherence to their conscience,Â” Lee said.Â
Views on conscientious objection seem to be changing as well.
According to a survey by the National Human Rights Commission, 46.1 percent of people said last year the government should allow conscientious objection, up 12.8 percentage points from 33.3 percent in a 2011 poll.Â
Â“The answer is simple,Â” Baek said. Â“We just have to adopt legislation that allows conscientious objectors to carry out an appropriate alternative service of a length comparable to that of military service.Â”Â
Three bills are pending at the National Assembly seeking to add alternative options to the mandatory military service system.Â
Critics argue it is premature to adopt an alternative service program, especially amid ongoing threats from North Korea. It would also affect the morale of conscripted soldiers to see those citing faith -- which is hard to prove -- being allowed to avoid the tough life in barracks.Â
Â“We do not ask for special treatment,Â” Baek said.Â
Â“Some people wrongly assume that we would be exempted from the national duty mandated to all male citizens of South Korea once the court rules in favor of conscientious objection.
Â“But we are willing to serve our country once an alternative service for objectors is introduced. That will allow us to contribute to the community in a way that does not conflict with our conscience, for instance, in the areas of public health, social welfare, the environment and labor,Â” Baek added.Â
He also believes that religious conscientious objectors have an important role to play.Â
Â“It is our part not to give up and to keep hope alive. I hope they do not resign themselves to be sent to jail, but keep appealing against the prison term to bring about change,Â” Baek said.Â
By Bak Se-hwan (email@example.com)
By Guest Nicole
Jeong Chun-guk, who served the longest time in Korea for conscientious objection, seven years, is now a farmer. [KIM SEONG-TAE]
For 69-year-old Jeong Chun-guk, whose seven years and 10 months in jail is still the longest time ever served by a conscientious objector to mandatory military service in Korea, the struggle for peace has finally led him to a tranquil plot of land in Geumsan County, South Chungcheong, where he can focus on farming and his faith.
Â“I believed that it was more important to spread the new world I discovered within the Bible,Â” he says of his decision not to serve in the military. He had followed his motherÂ’s footsteps, becoming a JehovahÂ’s Witness when he was a freshman studying medicine at Chungnam National University in Daejeon.Â
JehovahÂ’s Witnesses have traditionally held a view that worship should be only to the Â“Kingdom of God,Â” therefore banning allegiance or participation in any national government or politics among their faithful. Though taught to obey the laws of where they inhabit, JehovahÂ’s Witnesses have been known to disobey the laws that conflict with their doctrines, such as denying blood transfusion and refusing to serve military duties.Â
His father, a prison officer, was at a loss for words upon hearing that Jeong had dropped out of school after only one semester.Â
Â“The watchtower my father climbed with his lunch box seemed like a great dungeon from some novel,Â” he says. Â“I never imagined that I would live in such a place.Â”Â
When Jeong turned 21 in 1969, he was incarcerated for 10 months, at the height of anti-communist sentiment following the Blue House raid on Jan. 21, 1968, when North Korean commandos attempted to assassinate then-President Park Chung-hee.Â
After the October Restoration of 1972, in which Park assumed dictatorial powers, conscientious objectors and their families were publicly shamed and the penalty was sharply increased with amendments to the Military Service Law and the new Special Acts for Violation of Military Service Law.Â
At 26, Jeong received another draft notice and arrest warrant. He sent Daejeon District court a seven-page appeal, but the appeal judge sentenced him to three years in prison, twice the initial sentencing.Â
Prison guards, he came to learn, were particularly brutal towards JehovahÂ’s Witnesses. Â“Fearing that JehovahÂ’s Witnesses might proselytize, they did not make us work. Instead we were forced to sit down for the whole day. The only times we could stand up were during our three meals and 15-minute exercise sessions,Â” says Jeong. Â“We prayed so that we may work standing.Â”Â
In those days, the Military Service Law did not allow exemptions from service until three years of penal labor had been served. The Supreme Court deemed it legal to repeat this punishment every time military service was declined, so Jeong was sentenced again in 1974.Â
Upon completing his second sentence at 29, he asked the Military Manpower Administration why a university dropout like himself was being drafted.Â
The Military Service Law back then considered candidates eligible for active duty from the time they graduated high school until the age of 28. But for undergraduates, this was extended to 30.Â
The administration replied that even freshman dropouts were considered undergraduates.Â
One day in February 1977, as he was waiting to finally go home, Jeong was taken to the 32nd Infantry Division.Â
He received another four years in jail from the military court on the conviction of Â“disobeying orders.Â” Â“I thought this was the end,Â” says Jeong, Â“I remember crying at the sight of my motherÂ’s tear-filled eyes.Â”Â
His punishment ended in 1981 at the age of 33.Â
Â“It was strange to see no one stalking me from behind as I walked home,Â” he says.Â
Recently, a lawyer advised him to re-open his case, but Jeon has decided against this. Â“ItÂ’s not impossible to empathize with those who try to protect society by policing those who step out of line,Â” he says, Â“even if they have the strangest reasons.Â”Â
BY MOON HYEON-KYUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]
The Seoul Supreme Court Now Says That Conscientious Objection is Illegal, Revoking the Acquittals in 16 Cases this Year.By Bible Speaks
Judge Kim Jin-Wook, of the south Seoul District Court, dispatched two Jehovah's Witnesses to violate the military service act, in the last addition to a series of judicial rulings in favour of conscientious objectors. Men, both of whom were 23 years old, were accused of disobeying the government's order to enlist in the army in 2014 because of their faith.
The judge said that his non-compliance had " justifiable reasons " and that it was due to the government's " negligence " to provide alternative ways to serve the country.
There are about 20.000 conscientious objectors in South Korea who have gone to jail for refusing to serve in the armed forces based on freedom of thought, conscience or religion, as military service became mandatory for all Healthy Men during the 1950-1953 S WAR.
Conscientious objectors have been uniformly sentenced to 18 month s' imprisonment.
Only this year, more than 30 conscientious objectors have been acquitted. But the Supreme Court held that conscientious objection is illegal, revoking the acquittals in 16 cases this year.
By Guest Nicole
The U.S. Commission in International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) sounded the alarm about the "worsening" state of affairs for religious freedom across the globe in its report for this year, the Christian News Network reported.
The report, released on Wednesday last week, urges the U.S. Department of State to designate 16 more nations as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), citing particular instances in those countries that merited their inclusion in the list.
"Overall, the Commission has concluded that the state of affairs for international religious freedom is worsening in both the depth and breadth of violations," said USCIRF Chairman Thomas Reese in a statement.
"The blatant assaults have become so frightening—attempted genocide, the slaughter of innocents, and wholesale destruction of places of worship—that less egregious abuses go unnoticed or at least unappreciated," he pointed out.
Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, a USCIRF member, said during a panel discussion on Wednesday in Washington D.C. that the commission "specifically name names so that those stories are lifted and people gain the strength that they need in order to continue fighting for their faith," CBN News reported.
The commission urged the State Department to designate six nations—Russia, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, and Vietnam as countries of concern.
The commission blew the whistle on Russia due to worsening religious freedoms in that country, which became even more evident with the recent ban of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Once again, North Korea topped the USCIRF list of countries with the most repressive regimes, noting that freedom of religion is non-existent in that communist nation.
North Korea is also Number 1 on Open Doors USA's World Watch list of the top 50 Christian-persecuting countries in the world.
The Commission urged both Congress and the Trump administration to continually speak up about religious freedom abuses around the world, both in public and in private meetings.
"You cannot have religious freedom without the freedom of worship, the freedom of association, the freedom of expression and opinion, the freedom of assembly, protection from arbitrary arrest and detention, [and] protection from interference in home and family," the report states.
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/assaults-on-religious-freedom-worsening-worldwide-says-u-s-annual-report-184494/#4lzIKswKL2TVtmGV.99
By Guest Nicole
A performance criticizing the government’s handling of conscientious objectors, at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square by Amnesty International Korea, the Center for Military Human Rights, World Without War, and People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) to call for an end to the publishing of personal data on military service evaders, Mar. 28. (by Kim Tae-hyeong, staff photographer)
Objectors and civic groups calling for government to introduce alternative forms of service, instead of punishment
On Feb. 23, the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) sent a notice to 23-year-old Park Sang-wook informing him that his personal details were to be made public as a military service evader. Park’s failure to report to the training center on his reported enlistment date of Dec. 26 was defined by the MMA as “evasion of active military service.” Barring special grounds, the notice informed him, his name, age, address, and other personal details would be published online at the end of the year.Park is a conscientious objector. His decision not to perform military service was motivated not by religious reasons, but by his pacifist convictions. On Mar. 28, he took the microphone at a press conference organized at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square by Amnesty International Korea, the Center for Military Human Rights, World Without War, and People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) to call for an end to the publishing of personal data on military service evaders.“What is evasion? It means deliberately avoiding a task because of laziness,” he said.“Under the guise of ‘protecting the public,’ the state has established a rigid military state and is massacring its own citizens or deploying them as hired soldiers,” he continued. “Tarnished as it is by defense industry corruption and suspicious deaths, isn‘t it the military itself that is really full of evasion?”Park is awaiting trial after being indicted this month for violating the Military Service Act. Unless he can present special grounds, he will have to spend eighteen months in prison. Barring other circumstances, he will have his name, address, and other personal data made public in December as a military service evader.As a fellow conscientious objector, PSPD secretary Hong Jeong-hoon is in a similar position.“Publishing personal data for someone undergoing trial defies common sense,” Hong said at the press conference.“We need to recognize individuals’ conscience and convictions and institute a system for alternative forms of military service,” he continued.Last year, the MMA began publishing personal information about military service evaders, including their name, age, address, and the nature of their evasion. The Ministry of National Defense instituted the system to prevent evasion at higher echelons in particular and promote an atmosphere of diligent military service compliance. In late 2016, it published the first list of 237 military service evaders who had not reported by December since an amendment to the Military Service Act went into effect in July 2015.The group World Without War noted that “at least 160 of the 237 people were conscientious objectors as Jehovah’s Witnesses, suggesting conscientious objects represent the majority of the system’s targets.”“As a system that seeks to use shaming to force compliance with military service duties, this system has no effect whatsoever on conscientious objectors who feel they cannot defy the dictates of their conscience, even if it means going to prison,” the group said.Speaking at the press conference, Amnesty International Korea secretary Park Seung-ho explained, “The United Nations Human Rights Committee previously said it was a breach of protocol for the South Korean government to impose prison sentences on conscientious objectors without giving them an opportunity for alternative service.”“Now the South Korean government has built up the conscientious objection issue so much that we can talk about conscientious objection being a right in itself,” Park added.“Instead of infringing more on human rights by releasing personal information, what the South Korean government should be doing is honoring its promises to the international community.”By Park Su-ji, staff reporterPlease direct questions or comments to [email@example.com]
By Guest Nicole
On his drive to Calipatria State Prison, Ricardo Perez thought of the couple he’d met a few months earlier and their desperate plea: Can you help us get our innocent relative out of prison?
It was spring 2012. Perez was fresh out of Loyola Law School and yearning for a meaningful case, so he agreed to look into their relative’s conviction. After reading the trial transcript, he went to meet Marco Contreras.
“Are you innocent?” he asked him. “If you're not, I won’t judge you and I won’t tell your family. But if I’m going to spend the next several years on this, I need to know for sure.”
Contreras looked him dead in the eye, Perez recalled, and said, “I’m innocent.”
That conversation led to years of investigation and, ultimately, Contreras’ release from custody on Tuesday — the second time this month that a team of lawyers and students from Loyola have helped free a wrongfully convicted man.
After spending 20 years behind bars, Contreras used the moments after his release to speak to others in his situation.
“Keep fighting,” he said in Spanish. “Be patient and keep fighting.”
Contreras, 41, who maintained his innocence, was convicted in 1997 of attempted murder and attempted robbery for a shooting at a Compton gas station a year earlier. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Superior Court Judge William Ryan ruled last week that Contreras was factually innocent, and Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace said Tuesday that prosecutors lost faith in Contreras’ conviction, adding that other men have been linked to the crime.
Attempted murder and conspiracy charges were filed Thursday against Antonio Salgado, 41; Antonio Garcia, 61; and Ricardo Valencia, 46. Both Garcia and Valencia pleaded not guilty Monday, and Salgado hasn’t been arraigned.
Contreras’ attorneys say an eyewitness inaccurately identified him as the gunman, although he’d been at home sleeping at the time. It’s an example of the unreliability of witness misidentification, said Adam Grant, another Contreras attorney.
“This is a huge problem,” he said. “It’s a thorny problem because the public considers it reliable.”
Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent began looking into the case in 2012 after Perez put them in touch with Contreras’ family. During their investigation, lawyers and students found new evidence, including a striking physical similarity between Contreras and Salgado. The team of attorneys then presented its findings to the district attorney’s conviction review unit — a crew of prosecutors and investigators dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions — which conducted its own investigation, along with sheriff’s investigators, into the shooting.
In a letter to the judge made public this week, prosecutors laid out the facts of the case, which they say point to Contreras’ innocence.
At a Mepco gas station on a September morning in 1996, a man fired several shots at Jose Garcia, who was wounded but survived after a month-long hospital stay. While stopped at a red light nearby, Alicia Valladolid, an intern for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, saw the gunman run into a getaway car – a blue and beige Bronco.
She jotted down the license plate number and investigators tracked the car to Contreras. When his brother, Miguel, told police he owned the Bronco, he was charged with attempted murder, attempted robbery, as well as being an accessory after the fact. At Miguel’s preliminary hearing, Valladolid spotted Marco in the audience and told a detective he was the shooter she’d seen. Marco was arrested and charged as the gunman.
At his trial, the victim expressed some doubt in identifying him as the shooter, saying, “I’m not sure about the face.” And defense witnesses testified that Marco was home at the time of the shooting. But jurors found him guilty.
Miguel pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to a 16-month prison sentence. His other charges were dropped as part of his plea deal.
After his release, he told Compton police that his brother — who had a clean criminal record — wasn’t the gunman. Around that time, a detective had been trying to interview Salgado, a documented gang member the detective believed was the true gunman. Salgado fled to Missouri, records show, after realizing police were looking for him.
Although Miguel had long resisted being viewed as “a rat,” according to court records, he eventually told his family that Salgado was the gunman and agreed to help authorities with an undercover sting operation.
During a secretly recorded conversation with Valencia, Miguel brought up the shooting. Valencia told him it was an orchestrated hit likely tied to a drug dispute and said Salgado had admitted to being the gunman.
During a 2014 interview with prosecutors and Loyola attorneys, Miguel said he and Salgado had been hired by Antonio Garcia, another co-worker, to carry out a murder-for-hire plot. Miguel — who described his role in the crime as merely assisting a friend — said he believed Antonio Garcia had promised to pay Salgado $10,000.
Contreras’ release is the second big reversal handled by the district attorney’s conviction review unit since its creation in 2015. Last year, prosecutors asked the same judge to throw out the murder conviction of a man charged in the 2000 slaying of a college student in a Palmdale parking lot. Earlier this year, Ryan tossed the conviction and declared Raymond Lee Jennings factually innocent.
In the other Loyola case from two weeks ago, a different judge threw out the murder conviction of Andrew Leander Wilson, who served 32 years behind bars after being convicted of a 1984 stabbing.
As Marco Contreras was escorted into court Tuesday, he turned to look at his family in the audience. He nodded at them several times, and tears welled in his eyes. Perez patted him on the back.
At the end of the hearing, Contreras — dressed in a black suit — stood to address the judge.
“I’d like to thank you for allowing me to be here,” he said. “Also the D.A. — I’d like to say thank you to everybody.”
The judge smiled and told Contreras he hoped he had a good support system to help him adjust to life outside of custody. The world, the judge warned him, had changed a lot in 20 years.
“This is a new chapter,” Ryan said. “Good luck to you, sir.”
The audience of Loyola students and Contreras’ family burst into applause, shouting, “Woo! Woo! Woo!” Contreras threw his fist in the air in celebration, and the courtroom bailiff smiled. Perez said a single word — surreal — was running through his mind.
During a news conference after the hearing, Contreras’ mother, Maria, walked slowly toward her son. She embraced him in a tight hug and congratulated him in Spanish.
“¡Felicidades, hijo!” she told him. “¡Felicidades, mi hijo!”
She told reporters she’d always known he was innocent, saying before his arrest that he’d never gotten in trouble — not even a traffic ticket, she said.
Asked whether he felt any rancor, Contreras shook his head: “No, none. There’s no reason.”
For now, he said, he was looking forward to two things: good Mexican food and April 11. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness, and that’s the day his denomination will remember the anniversary of Jesus’ death.
His faith, he said, had kept him from spiraling into depression.
7 MARCA 2017
Korea Południowa niesprawiedliwie traktuje Dong-hyuk Shina
Władze Korei Południowej wtrącają do więzienia setki osób odmawiających służby wojskowej ze względu na sumienie. Karze podlegają również mężczyźni, którzy odmawiają stawienia się na ćwiczenia wojskowe po odbyciu zasadniczej służby wojskowej i przeniesieniu do rezerwy.
Dorastając w Korei Południowej, Dong-hyuk Shin wiedział, że pewnego dnia otrzyma powołanie do wojska. Stawił się do odbycia służby wojskowej, a w 2005 roku został automatycznie przeniesiony do rezerwy. Rezerwiści są przez kolejne osiem lat regularnie wzywani do odbycia ćwiczeń wojskowych.
Krótko po zwolnieniu ze służby Dong-hyuk Shin zaczął studiować Biblię. Jej pokojowe przesłanie poruszyło jego sumienie i pobudziło go do zmiany stosunku do służby wojskowej. Gdy w marcu 2006 roku został wezwany na ćwiczenia dla rezerwistów, poinformował władze wojskowe, że nie może zgodzić się na szkolenie, ponieważ byłoby to sprzeczne z jego sumieniem.
Brak poszanowania wolności sumienia
Korea Południowa nie uznaje prawa do podyktowanej sumieniem odmowy pełnienia służby wojskowej. Obecnie wzywa na ćwiczenia dla rezerwistów ponad 40 Świadków Jehowy, którzy odmawiają służby wojskowej ze względu na sumienie.
Wojsko zignorowało przyczyny, dla których Dong-hyuk Shin odmawiał wzięcia udziału w ćwiczeniach rezerwistów, i w ciągu roku kalendarzowego 2006 skierowało do niego w sumie 30 wezwań. Dong-hyuk Shin otrzymywał wezwania przez kolejne siedem lat. Od marca 2006 do grudnia 2013 roku odebrał ich łącznie 118 *. Ponieważ za każdym razem z szacunkiem odmawiał stawienia się na ćwiczenia, 49 razy był sądzony i uznany za winnego, 69 razy stawał przed sądami pierwszej i drugiej instancji oraz otrzymał w sumie 35 wyroków.
„Nie miał innego wyjścia”
Sądy nie miały wątpliwości, że Dong-hyuk Shin szczerze trzymał się głosu swojego sumienia. W swojej decyzji z 7 października 2014 roku Sąd Rejonowy w Ulsan orzekł: „To zrozumiałe, że gdy [Dong-hyuk Shin] został Świadkiem Jehowy, w tej sytuacji nie miał innego wyjścia, jak tylko złamać prawo, ponieważ nie mógł pogodzić służby wojskowej ze swoim wewnętrznym sumieniem i przekonaniami religijnymi”.
Chociaż Sąd Rejonowy ze zrozumieniem odniósł się do trudnego położenia Dong-hyuk Shina, możliwości sądów południowokoreańskich są ograniczone przepisami prawa o służbie wojskowej. Dong-hyuk Shin został ukarany przez sądy grzywnami w wysokości ponad 16 milionów wonów (około 55 000 złotych) i sześć razy skazany w zawieszeniu na pozbawienie wolności na okres przynajmniej sześciu miesięcy. W jednej sprawie sąd skazał go na 200 godzin prac społecznych.
Dong-hyuk Shin mówi: „Byłem tym strasznie udręczony. Miałem wrażenie, że ta próba nigdy się nie skończy. Moje częste wizyty w sądzie martwiły też moją rodzinę. Myślę, że przez te dziewięć lat tak samo jak ja cierpiała moja mama, a cały ten stres wpłynął niekorzystnie na jej zdrowie. Serce mi pękało, gdy widziałem, jak zadręcza się ona z powodu mojej sytuacji. Ucierpiałem też pod względem finansowym. Ciągłe wezwania, późniejsze postępowania sądowe i wyroki zmusiły mnie siedem razy do zmiany miejsca zatrudnienia, ponieważ z powodu obowiązku stawiania się w sądzie rosła moja absencja w pracy”.
Naruszenie umów międzynarodowych
Dong-hyuk Shin bezskutecznie odwoływał się od każdego z wyroków do sądów południowokoreańskich — Sąd Najwyższy czterokrotnie odrzucił jego skargi. Po wyczerpaniu środków prawnych w Korei Południowej w czerwcu 2016 roku Dong-hyuk Shin wniósł skargę do Komitetu Praw Człowieka ONZ. Stwierdził w niej, że poprzez ciągłe wezwania, postępowania sądowe i wyroki skazujące Korea Południowa nie wywiązała się z obowiązku przestrzegania Międzynarodowego Paktu Praw Obywatelskich i Politycznych. Skarga dotyczy trzech zagadnień:
Wielokrotne powoływanie do wojska osób odmawiających służby wojskowej ze względu na sumienie i ponownie karanie ich za tę odmowę jest jednoznacznie uznane w prawie międzynarodowym za pogwałcenie prawa do rzetelnego procesu.
Wielokrotne wezwania do odbycia ćwiczeń wojskowych i idące za tym procesy karne potwierdzają oczywisty cel działania urzędników państwowych, którym jest przymuszenie do służby wojskowej. Życie Dong-hyuk Shina wypełniły nękające oskarżenia i przewody sądowe, a lekceważenie i uznawanie trzymania się swoich przekonań religijnych za przestępstwo stanowiło upokarzającą karę.
Ponieważ Dong-hyuk Shin sprzeciwia się odbyciu służby wojskowej z powodu mocnych przekonań religijnych, uważa on, że naruszono jego prawo do wolności sumienia i wyznania.
Oczekiwanie na ulgę
Dong-hyuk Shin jest pełen optymizmu, że jego skarga zostanie rozpatrzona pozytywnie, ponieważ Komitet wielokrotnie orzekał, iż Korea Południowa powinna przestrzegać podyktowanego sumieniem prawa do odmowy służby wojskowej *. Z nadzieją oczekuje na decyzję, która uwzględni szczególną sytuację osób przeniesionych do rezerwy. Dong-hyuk Shin mówi: „Nie żałuję, że muszę bronić moich przekonań religijnych i sumienia, ale sprzeciwiam się temu, jak byłem traktowany. Mam nadzieję, że władze Korei Południowej uznają to, że ludzie mają prawo odmówić wypełnienia obowiązku nałożonego przez państwo, jeśli jest on sprzeczny z nakazami sumienia”. Podobne stanowisko zajmują Świadkowie Jehowy w Korei Południowej i na całym świecie.
„Wielokrotne karanie osób odmawiających służby wojskowej z powodów sumienia za niezastosowanie się do ponownego wezwania do służby oznacza powtórne karanie za ten sam czyn, jeśli kolejna odmowa wynika z tych samych niezmiennych przyczyn opartych na sumieniu” (Orzeczenie Komitetu Praw Człowieka, Zafar Abdullayev v. Turkmenistan, Communication No. 2218/2012, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/113/D/2218/2012, 25 marca 2015)
NAJCZĘŚCIEJ ZADAWANE PYTANIA
Dlaczego Świadkowie Jehowy nie idą na wojnę?
Świadkowie Jehowy są znani z tego, że nie uczestniczą w wojnach. Dowiedz się dlaczego.
By The Librarian
Hi brothers!!! Really need your help to send these pictures to Bethelite couple in Korea. Don't know how to send it because I forgot their names, I think the name of the name of the sister is Cendy/Cindy? I want to thank them for their hospitality when I was touring the branch. Hope you can help me. Thank you and regards. - Clifford Abalos, Philippines
By Guest Nicole
By Guest Nicole
By Guest Nicole
Courts have sentenced five Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors in 2016 to two-year suspended prison terms for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. A sixth received a one-year corrective labour sentence. Turkmenistan ignored OSCE calls for the new Constitution to recognise conscientious objection.
Six conscientious objectors – all of them Jehovah's Witnesses – are now known to have been convicted and sentenced in Turkmenistan so far in 2016 to punish them for refusing to perform compulsory military service on religious grounds. Five received two-year suspended sentences. The sixth received a one-year corrective labour sentence, where he lives at home under restrictions and a fifth of his wages are seized.
All six young men were sentenced under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. This punishes refusal to serve in the armed forces in peacetime with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or two years' corrective labour.
No conscientious objectors to military service are known currently to be imprisoned. Over many years, Jehovah's Witness young men have routinely been convicted for refusing compulsory military service on religious grounds. Although in earlier years some were given non-custodial sentences, most were imprisoned. The last known imprisoned conscientious objector, Ruslan Narkuliyev, was freed under amnesty in February 2015 (see F18News 18 February 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2039).
Five young Jehovah's Witnesses are known to have been convicted for refusing compulsory military service and given corrective labour sentences in 2014 and 2015 (see F18News 5 July 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).
Turkmenistan offers no alternative to its compulsory military service. Article 58 of the new Constitution describes defence as a "sacred duty" of everyone and states that military service is compulsory for men. Turkmenistan ignored a call from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to recognise the right in the Constitution (see below).
Military service for men between the ages of 18 and 27 is generally two years. A proposed Alternative Service Law was reportedly drafted in 2013, but officials have been unable to tell Forum 18 if and when it might be adopted (see F18News 29 September 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2002).
No official was prepared to discuss with Forum 18 why young men continue to be convicted for refusing military service on religious grounds and why Turkmenistan has ignored calls by the United Nations (UN) and OSCE for a civilian alternative to compulsory military service to be introduced.
Following his usual response, Pirnazar Hudainazarov, Chair of the Mejlis (Parliament) Legislative Committee, refused absolutely to discuss anything. "Don't call here," he told Forum 18 from the capital Ashgabad [Ashgabat] on 3 October. "Ring the Foreign Ministry." He then put the phone down.
Telephones at the Foreign Ministry went unanswered on 3 October. Forum 18 was unable to reach Shemshat Atajanova, a department head at the government's Turkmen National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights in Ashgabad. A colleague refused to put Forum 18 through to her on 3 October and also refused to answer any questions himself.
Dashoguz: two-year suspended sentence
Jehovah's Witness Sanjarbek Saburov, from the northern city of Dashoguz, refused military service during the spring call-up. On 17 July he was placed in preventive detention while awaiting trial, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. A complaint regarding the detention was filed with the Presidential Administration, the General Prosecutor's Office, the Interior Ministry and the Turkmen National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.
On 10 August, Dashoguz Regional Prosecutor's Office responded to Saburov, stating that they would readdress his complaint to Dashoguz City Prosecutor's Office. The response from Dashoguz City Prosecutor's Office is still pending.
Saburov was tried under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. On 9 August, a Judge handed him a two-year suspended sentence. He was released in the courtroom after more than three weeks' detention.
Seydi: two-year suspended sentence
Jehovah's Witness Artur Yangibayev, from Seydi in the eastern Lebap Region, refused military service during the spring call-up. On 2 and 11 May, he sent a written petition to the Military Conscription Office, explaining his conscientious objection to military service.
On 16 June, two representatives of the Conscription Office, along with the local police officer, went to his home and took him to the Prosecutor's Office, where he was threatened with 15 years' imprisonment. "The officers applied severe psychological pressure and forced him to write a letter retracting his earlier written petition for alternative service as a conscientious objector," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18.
A complaint about the coercion to which Yangibayev was subjected was filed with the Presidential Administration and the General Prosecutor's Office.
Yangibayev was charged under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. On 8 August, he was placed in pre-trial preventive detention. On 30 August, a Judge handed Yangibayev a two-year suspended sentence. He was released in the courtroom after more than three weeks' detention.
Ashgabad: Four sentences in 2016
Four Jehovah's Witness young men from Ashgabad are known to have been convicted in 2016 under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1 for refusing military service on grounds of religious faith.
The first was Dayanch Jumayev, sentenced in Ashgabad in February to one year of corrective labour. He was ordered to live at home under restrictions, with one fifth of his wages being seized by the state (see F18News 5 July 2016http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).
Three others were subsequently sentenced on the same charges between February and August. Merdan Ochanov, Konstantin Sivkov and Ruslan Rahmetulov each received two-year suspended sentences, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.
An official of the chancellery of Ashgabad City Court refused to say if any of the four appealed against their sentences. "We don't give any information by telephone," she told Forum 18 before putting the phone down.
Further United Nations findings against Turkmenistan
The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee has found that Turkmenistan violated the rights of five further Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The five latest decisions – issued on 15 and 16 July – bring to 9 the number of such findings by the Committee against Turkmenistan in conscientious objection-related cases.
In the July decisions, the Committee found violations in the cases of Navruz Nasyrlayev, Matkarim Aminov, Dovran Matyakubov and Shadurdy Uchetov (all of whom had served prison terms), as well as Akmurad Nurjanov (who had received a suspended prison term). All five had lodged their appeals to the UN Human Rights Committee on 7 September 2012.
In March and October 2015 the UN Human Rights Committee found that Turkmenistan had violated the rights of four further Jehovah's Witness young men by imprisoning them for refusing compulsory military service on religious grounds. The Committee also ruled that beatings and other maltreatment (such as a head being repeatedly bashed against a wall) of Zafar Abdullayev, Mahmud Hudaybergenov, Ahmet Hudaybergenov and Sunnet Japparov is torture and the government needs to provide reparations (see F18News 5 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2164).
In all nine decisions, the Committee found the convictions and sentences for refusal of compulsory military service to be an infringement of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, in breach of ICCPR Article 18, Part 1. In each case, the Committee also determined that the authorities' treatment of the men violated the ICCPR Article 7 guarantee that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".
In addition, the Committee concluded that what Jehovah's Witnesses describe as the "deplorable living conditions" violated the right of detainees to be treated "with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person," under ICCPR Article 10.
Turkmenistan has not yet implemented the Committee's views, Jehovah's Witnesses lamented to Forum 18.
The UN Human Rights Committee is still considering the appeals by five more Jehovah's Witness former imprisoned conscientious objectors: Akmurat Egendurdiev, Arslan Dovletov, Juma Nazarov, Yadgarbek Sharipov and Atamurat Suvkhanov. Also awaiting a decision is Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Danatar Durdyyev, who was fined. These appeals were lodged in 2012 and 2013 (see F18News 5 July 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2196).
UN Human Rights Committee questions
At its July session in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Committee adopted a list of issues for the consideration of Turkmenistan's record under the ICCPR (CCPR/C/TKM/Q/2). The full review is due to take place in Geneva in March 2017.
In its list of issues, the Committee reminded Turkmenistan's government that it had already called on it in 2012 to introduce a civilian alternative service (CCPR/C/TKM/CO/1). It told the government "please indicate what steps have been taken to: (a) amend the relevant legislation to recognize the right to conscientious objection to compulsory military service and introduce alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors; and (b) 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 for such a refusal".
The UN Human Rights Committee also asked Turkmenistan's government to "explain how the restrictions imposed on the exercise of freedom of religion, particularly by the Freedom of Religion and Religious Organizations Act, including mandatory registration of religious organizations and prohibition of activities of unregistered religious organizations, prohibition of worship in private homes, restrictions on religious education and the importing, publication and distribution of religious literature, and the administrative penalties for violations of the legislation in question are compatible with the State party's obligations under article 18 of the Covenant [ICCPR]".
Turkmenistan ignores OSCE on lack of alternative service in new Constitution
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov signed into law a new Constitution on 14 September. Despite government claims, it ignored recommendations prepared by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that the text should make explicit mention of the right to opt for an alternative to military service.
Article 58 of the new Constitution declares: "The defence of Turkmenistan is the sacred duty of every citizen. For male citizens of Turkmenistan, universal military obligation has been established." The wording of this Article was identical to the wording of Article 38 of the previous Constitution.
The OSCE comments on the then draft Constitution were completed on 21 July and published on 1 September (http://legislationline.org/download/action/download/id/6321/file/288_CONST-TKM_21Jul2016_en.pdf). The OSCE recommended Turkmenistan "to include in Article 58 of the Draft Constitution an exception to the compulsory character of military service where such service cannot be reconciled with an individual's religion or beliefs (and to include references to possible alternatives of a non-combatant or civilian nature)".
Other OSCE concerns on new Constitution ignored
In its review the OSCE also recommended that the new Constitution make explicit reference "to the right of each individual to give and receive religious education in the language of their choice, and to the right to cultural expression in the field of religion, with specific reference to the rights of members of registered and unregistered religious groups to freely exercise their religion and culture, while ensuring that religious organizations are not precluded from taking part in public affairs". Turkmenistan ignored these recommendations.
"Under international human rights law," the OSCE review noted, "religious or belief communities should not be obliged to acquire legal personality if they do not wish to do so; the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief must not depend on whether a group has sought and acquired legal personality status."
In Article 18, which bans religious organisations from interfering in the affairs of state, the OSCE recommended that this be "re-considered or clarified", otherwise it could "misinterpreted" to prevent religious organisations from getting involved in public affairs. The OSCE also questioned why a similar ban on the interference by the state in the affairs of religious organisations was not included. These recommendations were ignored.
Similarly ignored was the OSCE recommendation for the ban on religious-based political parties to be removed from Article 44 of the new Constitution.
2010 OSCE review of Religion Law similarly ignored
The OSCE had earlier urged Turkmenistan to introduce a civilian alternative to military service, including in a review of the then Religion Law made public in December 2010 (see F18News 20 December 2010 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1523). (END)
By Guest Nicole
Radical hate preacher Anjem Choudary has renounced his Muslim faith after being forced to share a cell with a particularly persistent Jehovah’s Witness.
Choudary’s cellmate, Dave Smith, is a devout Witness and has spent the entire week teaching Choudary about the ways of his one true faith.
As one prison officer explained, “The Witnesses in here prey on the weak and feeble minded, but there’s very little we can do about it.
“They get you in a locked room and make you think about all the things wrong with the world, and before you know it you’re reading The Watchtower finding answers on every page.
“In the outside world you can close the door on them when they come knocking, and can easily go back to your evening, but when you’re in prison, there is no escape from them.
“The British prison system is rife with radicalised Jehovah’s Witnesses going round refusing blood transfusions and criticising Christmas.
“The people locked up in here are often disenfranchised and feel left behind by the ‘system’, so, of course they’re going to feel welcomed by a group offering eternity in paradise in return for ignoring Easter. Anjem really didn’t stand a chance.
“Plus it didn’t hurt that the Witnesses also hate the gays.”
By Guest Nicole
By Kim Se-jeong
An Jung-hyun, 23, is a Jehovah's Witness on trial for refusing to fulfill his compulsory military service. He was found guilty twice in lower courts, and appealed to the Supreme Court in July. Lawyers told him his chances of winning were low given the highest court's precedents, but he is cautiously hopeful.
This year alone, district courts acquitted nine fellow Jehovah's Witnesses of violations of the Military Law. The most recent ruling came one week ago from the Cheongju District Court which stated, "There are many ways to contribute to the nation without violating a person's basic rights such as social service or alternate work. It is unjust to punish military objectors by criminal law without even making efforts to provide alternatives."
Another hopeful sign comes from Kim Jae-hyung, a Supreme Court justice nominee who recently expressed his support for such objectors and alternative ways to serve the country. His confirmation hearing will begin in September, and if confirmed, he is expected to add a different opinion on the 13-justice court.
Ahn Se-young from Amnesty International Korea also showed cautious optimism.
"These developments certainly reflect growing public support for conscientious objectors," Ahn said.
While the government has claimed that conscientious objectors do not enjoy public support, Amnesty International Korea and Gallup recently conducted a survey in which more than 70 percent of respondents expressed support for conscientious objectors, according to Ahn.
"But, the appeals court and highest court are still conservative," Ahn said. She also doubts Kim will be influential enough to change the opinion of the entire top court.
Kim Dong-in, another Jehovah's Witness, claimed it's time for the Korean government to take a stance.
"If you look at the world, fewer countries refuse to recognize conscious objectors. It will eventually happen in Korea. It's time for Korea to voluntarily recognize them instead of being coerced to do so under pressure," he said.
But those against conscientious objectors claim if they are recognized, many people will abuse the system. "If Jehovah's Witnesses are found not guilty and are allowed alternative services, many young men will join the religious group only to avoid military duty," a blogger said. "There will be no way to sort out whether they are really believers or just misusing the system."
Now, eyes are on the Constitutional Court, which is expected to rule on an appeal by a conscientious objector later this year. Two previous rulings found it unconstitutional to skip military service because of personal beliefs.
Between 1950 and 2011, more than 16,000 conscientious objectors have been imprisoned in Korea, according to Amnesty International Korea. Every year, hundreds of objectors, mostly Jehovah's Witnesses, are put on trial for their rejection of military service based on their beliefs. Those convicted are sentenced to imprisonment for up to 18 months.
"There will be so much I won't be able to do if I have a criminal record," An said. "I am not saying that I will avoid my service to the country altogether. I would like to serve my country, but in a different form."
By Guest Nicole
Twisted Sutcliffe has been in Broadmoor since 1981 but has now been deemed "sane enough" to return to a normal prison.
He was jailed for brutally killing 13 women and attacking seven others – some of the prostitutes – across Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.
Sickening Sutcliffe he claimed was at the will of God to "cleanse the streets" of prostitutes.
His fixation with God inside jail has continued, as Daily Star Online recently revealed how hedepicts himself as Jesus Christ in a painting in his cell and how he has become a Jehovah's Witness.
But now the disgusting killer will have to swap the luxury lag life of Broadmoor for a squalid prison cell.
Sutcliffe, 70, told hospital pals he would rather take his own life than leave his Broadmoor boudoir.
He said: “If they send me back to prison, I’d have no reason to live,” the Sun reports.
“I feel like I’ve lost all hope.
“Category A prisons are a pit of black despair and hopelessness.
“I’ll spend the rest of my days there.
“Why should I carry on? There is a higher risk of attack in prison but the people in charge don’t give a damn.
“It’s all violence, weapons and drugs. It will be so depressing.”
It is thought Sutcliffe could be jailed alongside notorious British criminals, such as Soham murderer Ian Huntley and evil Levi Bellfield.
When he moves to a regular jail, Sutcliffe will have to give up his luxury taxpayer-funded lifestyle – which allows him to watch telly, send letters to his sick legion of fans and enjoy multiple weekly visits.
The move still has to be rubber-stamped by the Ministry of Justice and Sutcliffe is likely to face a tough time of it – having already been blinded in one of the three attacks while on the inside.
Last week Daily Star Online exclusively shed light on the relationship between the Yorkshire Ripper and Jimmy Savile, as the pair used to get cosy over a cup of tea in vile Sutcliffe's cell.
He attempted in 2010 to gain release which prompted outrage from MPs and the public.
A decision at the Court of Appeal determined that he would never be released.
By Jack Ryan
Crisis of Conscience is a book written by a former member of the Governing Body, Raymond Franz
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