Conscientious objector Halil Savda sentenced twice - to a total of 21.5 months in prison

Today, the Corlu military court sentenced conscientious objector Halil Savda to a further six months imprisonment, bringing his total prison time up to 21.5 months. Already on 15 March 2007, Halil Savda had been sentenced to 15 1/2 months imprisonment on charges of desertion and disobeying orders - by the same court that now sentenced him again for disobeying orders.

Already the sentence from 15 March constitutes a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion), both of which Turkey has signed and ratified.

The new sentence is not only a violation of Article 9 ECHR and Article 18 ICCPR, it also constitutes a violation of Article 14 para 7 of the ICCPR, which states that "no one shall be liable to be tried 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". The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made this clear in its opinion 36/1999, on the very similar case of conscientious objector Osman Murat Ulke: "The Working Group is of the opinion that there is, since, after the initial conviction, the person exhibits, for reasons of conscience, a constant resolve not to obey the subsequent summons, so that there is "one and the same action entailing the same consequences and, therefore, the offence is the same and not a new one" (see Decision of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, 18 September 1999, No. 2, No. 130/95). Systematically to interpret such a refusal as being perhaps provisional (selective) would, in a country where the rule of law prevails, be tantamount to compelling someone to change his mind for fear of being deprived of his liberty if not for life, at least until the date at which citizens cease to be liable to military service."

The sentence also goes against the spirit of the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights from 24 January 2006 on the case of Osman Murat �ke. The court noted: "The numerous criminal prosecutions against the applicant, the cumulative effects of the criminal convictions which resulted from them and the constant alternation between prosecutions and terms of imprisonment, together with the possibility that he would be liable to prosecution for the rest of his life, had been disproportionate to the aim of ensuring that he did his military service. They were more calculated to repressing the applicant?s intellectual personality, inspiring in him feelings of fear, anguish and vulnerability capable of humiliating and debasing him and breaking his resistance and will. The clandestine life amounting almost to "civil death" which the applicant had been compelled to adopt was incompatible with the punishment regime of a democratic society."

Even after a release from prison, Halil Savda will not be free - he will either be sent back to his military unit, or be forced to live a clandestine life.

In accordance with Turkish practice, the court did not go into the reasoning for the sentence - the reasons why the court thought it possible to sentence Halil Savda for the second time for what has to be considered as one and the same offence will only be known when the written judgement will be available.

More information on Halil Savda and conscientious objection in Turkey is available at

War Resisters' International calls for letters of support to Halil Savda.

Halil Savda
5. Kolordu Komutanligi,
Askeri Cezaevi
Corlu - Tekirdag

War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the Turkish authorities, and Turkish embassies abroad.

* General Staff of the Turkish Military: Fax +90-312-4250813
* Presidency of the Turkish Republic: Fax +90-312-4271330, email
* A protest email to the Turkish President Ahmet Nezdet Secer can be sent at

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of Halil Savda and all other imprisoned conscientious objectors.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International