A Dashoguz Region court jailed Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Kamiljan Ergashov for two years on 13 January, the first such jailing of 2020. He had offered to do an alternative civilian service but Turkmenistan does not offer this. He is likely to join the eight other jailed conscientious objectors in Seydi labour camp, known for harsh conditions and torture.
On 13 January, a court in Dashoguz Region of northern Turkmenistan jailed 18-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Kamiljan Ergashov for two years for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. This is the first known conviction and jailing of a conscientious objector so far in 2020. It is the 20th known such conviction since January 2018.
Conscripts at Ashgabat Military Conscription Office
Ergashov is the only bread winner in his family (see below).
Ergashov is appealing against his conviction to Dashoguz Regional Court, though courts and prisons often obstruct such appeals (see below).
Jehovah's Witnesses are conscientious objectors to military service and their beliefs do not allow them to undertake any kind of activity supporting any country's military. But they willing undertake an alternative, totally civilian form of service, as is the right of all conscientious objectors to military service under international human rights law.
The sentence handed down to Ergashov brings to nine the number of conscientious objectors to compulsory military service known to be serving sentences. All of them are Jehovah's Witnesses (see full list below).
Including two who have been serving jail terms since 2018, nine Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors are known - as of 27 January 2020 - to be serving jail terms of between one and four years. Eight of them are imprisoned at the Labour Camp at Seydi in the eastern Lebap Region (see full list below).
Ergashov is still being held at the pre-trial detention prison in the city of Dashoguz, 450 kms (280 miles) north of the capital Ashgabat. He is expected to be transferred to the labour camp at Seydi, where the other eight jailed conscientious objectors are all being held (see below).
Turkmenistan has ignored repeated international calls, for example by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, to introduce a genuine civilian alternative to compulsory military service, to stop prosecuting and punishing conscientious objectors, and to compensate those it has punished.
The man who answered the phone of the deputy head of Dashoguz Region's Military Prosecutor's Office denied that it had any involvement in the prosecution. "We don't know anything" (see below).
Forum 18 could not immediately reach any other officials to find out why Ergashov was jailed and the regime is not willing to introduce a civilian alternative service. In particular, the specialist at the government's Commission for Work with Religious Organisations and Expert Analysis of Resources Containing Religious Information, Published and Printed Production, Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah, did not answer his phone (see below).
the United Nations Human Rights Committee has published 13 Decisions in favour of 15 conscientious objectors from Turkmenistan, all of them Jehovah's Witnesses (see below).
Another Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector former prisoner, Arslan Begenchov, lodged a case to the UN Human Rights Committee in 2018 and is awaiting a decision (see below).
Other prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief – all of them Muslims – are serving far longer jail terms (see below).
No alternative to compulsory military service
Military Conscription Office, Ashgabat
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.
Young men who refuse military service on grounds of conscience generally 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.
Criminal Code Article 219, Part 2 punishes refusal to serve in the armed forces in peacetime "by means of inflicting injury to oneself, or by simulation of illness, by means of forgery of documents, or other fraudulent ways". Punishment is a jail term of one to four years. The first known use of Article 219, Part 2 to punish a conscientious objector was the case of Azat Ashirov, while Serdar Dovletov's case was the second (see below).
From 2014, courts punished conscientious objectors with corrective labour or suspended prison terms, rather than imprisonment. However, jailings resumed in January 2018. Courts jailed 12 conscientious objectors in 2018, two of them for two years and 10 for one year.
Read more: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2537