AI Index: EUR 17/09/95

                                Amnesty International
                                International Secretariat
                                1 Easton Street
                                London WC1X 8DJ
                                United Kingdom
                                Tel: (44) (71) 413 5500
                                Fax: (44) (71) 956 1157


          Imprisonment of conscientious objectors

          Sotiris Kyriakou Florentzou and Dimitris Tilavertis

On 10 February 1995, conscientious objector Sotiris Kyriakou Florentzou, was
sentenced by Larnaca Military Court to six months' imprisonment for refusing to
perform military service. The same day conscientious objector Dimitris 
Tilavertis was sentenced to two months' imprisonment by Larnaca Military
Court for the same offence.

     When they are released they will probably be called up again.  Upon
refusing once again to perform military service they are likely to face yet a
further term of imprisonment. As Jehovah's Witnesses, they are opposed to
performing any kind of military service.  They are among 18 conscientious
objectors currently in prison in Cyprus serving prison sentences of up to 12
months for their refusal to perform military service or reservist exercises.  
As far as Amnesty International is aware, all of them are Jehovah's

     Amnesty International considers Sotiris Kyriakou Florentzou, Dimitris
Tilavertis and all other imprisoned conscientious objectors in Cyprus to be
prisoners of conscience and calls on the Cypriot authorities to release them
immediately and introduce a completely civilian service for conscientious
objectors of non-punitive length.

     In January 1992 the Cypriot House of Representatives headed by former
President George Vassiliou passed legislation recognizing for the first time in
Cyprus the right to have conscientious objections to military service.  The
legislation made provision for alternative service which was, however, out of
line with international standards in a number of crucial respects.

     It provides for "unarmed military service" inside and outside military
camps.  Those who choose unarmed service without military uniform and outside 
the military camps have to serve 42 months; those who choose unarmed
service with military uniform, inside the military area but without the
obligation of carrying a weapon, have to serve 34 months.  In both above
cases the length of the unarmed service (42 or 34 months as against the 26
months of ordinary military service) remains punitive and conscientious
objectors have also to perform supplementary service equivalent to periods
of reservist exercises (lasting from several days to several weeks) at
regular intervals until the age of 50.  The right to transfer to
alternative service from military service is suspended during periods
of emergency or general mobilization.  The right to conscientious objection is
open to conscientious objectors on ethical, moral, humanitarian, philosophical,
political, as well as religious grounds.

     Soon after the legislation was passed, Amnesty International urged the
former government to bring the new legislation on conscientious objection into
line with international recommendations. In March 1992 former President George
Vassiliou informed Amnesty International that an entirely civilian service 
would be available for objectors on a variety of grounds but that the
authorities did not consider the length of the alternative service to be
punitive, especially given current relations with Turkey and the
occupation of part of the island by Turkish armed forces, nor would they
permit people who developed conscientious objections during periods of
emergency or mobilization to switch to alternative civilian service.

     According to the most recent information available to Amnesty 
International, it is necessary for those called up for military service to 
enlist before they may apply to perform alternative service. This
procedure would be unacceptable to most concientious objectors and as far
as Amnesty International knows, no one in Cyprus has yet applied for
recognition as a conscientious objector under the new legislation.  By
mid-1992 convictions had resumed at their previous rate with conscientious
objectors being sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment than ever.

     On 14 February 1993 elections were won by Glafcos Clerides, who was sworn
in on 28 February.  Since then Amnesty International has called on President
Clerides and his government to address the problem of conscientious objection 
and to take steps to modify and implement the legislation passed in
January 1992 so that it reflects international standards adopted on
conscientious objection.

Position of the Jehovah's Witnesses

On a number of occasions before the legislation was passed, representatives of
the Jehovah's Witness community in Cyprus requested meetings with 
representatives of the former government in order to clarify its position
on alternative service in the hope that the government would organize
alternative civilian service in such a way that it would provide a
workable solution.  However, these requests were turned down.

     Given that the former government was well aware that the vast majority of
those affected by the lack of any alternative civilian service were Jehovah's
Witnesses and that it was the imprisonment of such men which prompted the
drafting of such legislation in the first place, this attitude pointed to
a lack of willingness on the part of the government to find a workable

International recommendations on conscientious objection

Cyprus is a member of the Council of Europe and the United Nations and a
participating state in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
(OSCE), formerly CSCE.  These bodies have adopted the following resolutions and
recommendations, all of which urge member states to recognize the right to
conscientious objection and adjust their national legislation to make provision
for alternative civilian service:

i)   The United Nations Commission on Human Rights: Resolution 1989/59, which 
was reaffirmed in 1991 (1991/65), recognizes "the right of everyone to
have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise
of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as laid down
in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as
article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights"
and recommends that Member States provide alternative service "in
principle of a non-combatant or civilian character, in the public interest
and not of a punitive nature".

ii)   Council of Europe: Recommendation No. R (87) 8 of the Committee of
Ministers to Member States Regarding Conscientious Objection to Compulsory
Military Service, recommends that governments of member states make provision 
in their legislation for conscientious objectors to have the right to
perform alternative service which is not of a punitive nature. However,
the Cypriot Government has reserved the right not to comply with the
recommendation in paragraph 9 that alternative service "shall be in
principle civilian and in the public interest".

iii)   At the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of 
the CSCE in 1990 the participating States of the Conference, which
included Cyprus, noted that the UN Commission on Human Rights has
recognized the right of everyone to have conscientious objections to
military service and agreed to consider introducing, where this has not
yet been done, various forms of alternative civilian service in the public
interest and of a non-punitive nature.