Posted by: becketfund | April 20, 2009

Turkmenistan: No Conscientious Objection in Military

DASHOGUZ – A Jehovah’s Witness in his early twenties, Zafar Abdullaev, has been given a two-year suspended sentence in the northern town of Dashoguz [Dashhowuz] for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of religious conscience, Forum 18 reported on April 20. Abdullaev’s criminal conviction comes despite calls from the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief for the state to stop treating conscientious objection as a criminal offense and introduce a genuinely civilian alternative service. However, Turkmenistan’s most senior human rights official, Shirin Akhmedova, has completely rejected these appeals. Instead, she pointed to the country’s Constitution, which describes compulsory military service as a “sacred duty.” In addition to his criminal record, it is unknown if Abdullaev faces other restrictions during his sentence, such as on his freedom of movement. There are two other known conscientious objectors currently serving sentences in Turkmenistan. Both, Begench Shakhmuradov and Vladimir Golosenko, are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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