Con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tor law de­bate,

Cyprus Today - - FRONT PAGE - By KEREM HASAN Chief Re­porter

A DRAFT le­gal change to al­low for con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion to mil­i­tary ser­vice in North Cyprus — ac­cepted in Eu­rope and at the United Na­tions as a hu­man right — is to be scru­ti­nised in Par­lia­ment, but faces op­po­si­tion from MPs who claim it can­not ap­ply be­cause of the TRNC’s “spe­cial cir­cum­stances”.

The pro­posed amend­ment to the Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Law was brought on to the agenda of the As­sem­bly’s Le­gal and Po­lit­i­cal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee in the wake of last Thurs­day’s rul­ing by a mil­i­tary court in Le­fkoşa fin­ing Halil Kara­paşaoğlu 2,000TL for re­fus­ing to at­tend one-day an­nual “re­fresher” train­ing.

Sup­port­ers of Mr Kara­paşaoğlu from the Con­sci­en­tious Ob­jec­tion Ini­tia­tive gath­ered out­side Par­lia­ment call­ing for the amend­ment Bill to be passed and en­acted speed­ily — win­ning the back­ing of MP Fikri Toros, of the rul­ing Repub­li­can Turk­ish Party (CTP), who emerged from the build­ing to “com­mend . . . your strong, de­ter­mined stance”.

How­ever any le­gal change is al­most cer­tain to be too late for Mr Kara­paşaoğlu, who faces 20 days in jail af­ter an­nounc­ing that he would not pay the fine by a court-im­posed dead­line of Mon­day.

Par­lia­men­tary Speaker and CTP MP Te­ber­rüken Uluçay said pro­ce­dure re­quired the is­sue to be taken up at the com­mit­tee in 20 days’ time, adding: “When the de­tails are ironed out it will then be sent to the Par­lia­men­tary As­sem­bly for scru­tiny and de­bate.”

All four coali­tion part­ners — CTP, the Peo­ple’s (HP), So­cial Demo­cratic (TDP) and Demo­crat (DP) par­ties — backed leg­is­la­tion on the is­sue in their man­i­festos for last Jan­uary’s gen­eral elec­tion.

But while the rul­ing par­ties can muster 27 votes be­tween them, com­ments from the Na­tional Unity Party (UBP), which has 21 MPs in the 50-seat leg­is­la­ture, and the Re­birth party (YDP), with two seats, sig­nalled the mea­sure will not sail through Par­lia­ment un­op­posed.

Sup­port­ers of the Bill say gen­uine con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tors must be ac­corded this op­por­tu­nity, in line with fun­da­men­tals of “free­dom of thought”, “con­science” and “re­li­gion”, as laid down in Ar­ti­cle 18 of the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights 1948, and Ar­ti­cle 18 of the 1976 In­ter­na­tional Covenant on Civil and Po­lit­i­cal Rights (ICCPR).

Op­po­nents, how­ever, ar­gue that the ab­sence of a com­pre­hen­sive po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment in Cyprus and con­tin­ued arm­ing in South Cyprus are among rea­sons why “now is not the time” and that this mea­sure should be put on hold un­til af­ter a peace deal on the is­land.

Mr Uluçay told Cyprus To­day CTP “fully sup­ports this hu­man right”, and party leader and Prime Min­is­ter Tu­fan Erhür­man de­clared in Par­lia­ment on Tues­day: “Con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion was part of the pro­gramme of all four coali­tion par­ties as well as the gov­ern­ment . . . and the is­sue has come to Par­lia­ment within the frame­work of hu­man rights.

“We have the views of the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral. There is also a rul­ing by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. The de­ci­sion rests on the leg­is­la­ture.”

Cyprus To­day was un­able to reach DP leader Ser­dar Denk­taş and HP’s Ku­dret Öz­er­say for their views, but Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Cul­ture Min­is­ter and TDP leader Ce­mal Özy­iğit pointed out that his party had pro­posed con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion leg­is­la­tion in 2014, but it had been re­jected by the gov­ern­ment of the day.

Mr Özy­iğit said he hoped the mil­i­tary court might have de­ferred judg­ment on Mr Kara­paşaoğlu, com­ment­ing: “There are youths who do not want to pick up a gun, and want to ben­e­fit from this [con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion] right. Those youths will be told to work in the pub­lic sec­tor for a [cer­tain] pe­riod.

“How­ever a youth who goes hunt­ing, who wields a gun for that pur­pose, will not then be able to come and claim this right, say­ing they don’t want to hold a gun in the mil­i­tary.”

Sup­port from out­side Par­lia­ment came from Com­nunal Lib­er­a­tion Party (TKP) leader Mehmet Çakıcı, who said the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion was a “hu­man right”.

Basın-Sen Press Work­ers’ Union (Bel-Sen) pres­i­dent Ali Kişmir and gen­eral sec­re­tary Serkan Soy­alan last week de­clared their own con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion, say­ing the Kara­paşaoğlu ver­dict had been “un­ac­cept­able” and put hu­man rights “be­hind bars”.

Mr Soy­alan, who has com­pleted his na­tional ser­vice and is to at­tend one more “re­fresher” train­ing day be­fore his obli­ga­tion ends at age 40, told Cyprus To­day this week: “This is a hu­man rights is­sue. I am not against the army but do not agree with peo­ple be­ing forced to join up if they are con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tors.

Photo:

Kerem Hasan Halil Kara­paşaoğlu Con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion sup­port­ers protest out­side the TRNC Par­lia­ment on Mon­day

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