War Resisters' International, London

28 March 2008


TURKEY: Conscientious objector Halil Savda arrested again

Turkish conscientious objector Halil Savda was arrested again on 27 March 2008, during a solidarity demonstration for imprisoned conscientious objector Ismail Saygi. Halil Savda read a statement in the name of the Solidarity Initiative for Saygi, saying:

"Based on our own painful experiences we worry about the possibility that Saygi will be targeted by the random pressures and restrictions, disciplinary punishments and torture that conscientious objectors are exposed to in military prisons."

Soon after, he was taken into custody by police, because of an outstanding arrest warrant on charges of desertion.

Halil Savda already spent several months in military prison, and has been sentenced repeatedly on charges of "persistent disobedience" or "desertion". On 12 April 2007, Halil Savda had been sentenced to six month imprisonment on charges of "persistent disobedience" between 25 January and 5 February 2007 (see co-alert from 12 April 2007). On 15 March of the same year, he had already been sentenced to 15.5 months imprisonment on charges of desertion (see co-alert from 20 March 2007).

Both sentences constitute 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 second sentence was not only a violation of Article 9 ECHR and Article 18 ICCPR, it also constituted 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 Ülke: "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 sentences also went against the spirit of the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights from 24 January 2006 on the case of Osman Murat Ülke. 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."

Halil Savda had been released from prison on 28 July 2007, after serving the six months prison sentence, as at that time an appeal against the 15.5 months sentence was still pending. However, this appeal had been turned down recently. In addition, Halil Savda had been ordered to report to 'his' military unit within 48 hours, which he did not do. Following this, an arrest warrant on charges of desertion had been issued.

Following his arrest on 27 March, it is highly likely that Halil Savda will be brought to 'his' military prison in Corlu, to serve his 15.5 months sentence, and to await trial on new charges of desertion. This means that it is highly likely that after serving his present sentence, he will need to serve a new sentence, and might also be brought back to the military unit, only to be given - and refuse - new military orders. The vicious circle has again begun.

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

War Resisters' International calls for letters of support to Halil Savda, already now to his likely military prison:

    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 Abdullah Gul 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